Foster discusses England MU19s’ EUROs Finals draw
England men’s under-19s have been drawn against Austria, Israel and Serbia for this summer’s 2022 UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Slovakia
Head coach Ian Foster believes his England men’s under-19s side are in a good place as they go in search of glory at this summer’s 2022 UEFA European Under-19 Championship Finals.
Foster was in Slovakia on Thursday for the UEFA U19 EURO Finals draw, as the Young Lions were placed in Group B alongside Austria, Israel and Serbia (the latter of which was only confirmed in early June).
Hosts Slovakia, Romania, Italy and France make up Group A for the U19 EURO Finals, which will take place between 18 June to 1 July.
The top two teams in each group will progress to the semi-finals, with the third-place sides competing in a play-off to join the quartet in qualifying for the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup in Indonesia next year.
Foster said: “It was always going to be a difficult group whatever happened because only seven teams qualify along with the hosts. We could say we are quite fortunate to have avoided Italy and France but I’m sure they will look at it as being fortunate to have avoided us as well.
“The difficulty in our group is that Group 6 still has to be played and that is not for another month, so in terms of our preparation that is not ideal, but we will get ourselves out to the Netherlands to watch those games to make sure we are clear on what our opponent offers when that game comes around.”
He continued: “Our analyst has done a lot of background work on each of the other six teams who will be in the competition, so we already have some preparation work done on Israel and Austria and we will be in a good place when we meet early next week to get going on planning work and opposition analysis.”
England MU19s' match with Austria is pencilled in for 19 June, the clash with Serbia is set for 22 June and the Young Lions are due to face Israel on 25 June, with all three matches slated for 7pm BST kick-offs.
The semi-finals and World Cup qualification play-off will then be on 28 June before the tournament is concluded with the Final on 1 July at NTC Senec.
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Like all eight teams, England MU19s will be hoping to secure EURO victory this summer but Foster stressed: “We have to take it a step at a time.
“It is going to be a difficult group but we will look at Austria first and then take whatever comes next.”
England MU19s’ place at this summer’s U19 EURO Finals was secured after two rounds of qualifying.
The Young Lions’ did not concede a goal during the initial qualifying round, when they beat Andorra 4-0 and drew 0-0 with Switzerland before progressing thanks to a 2-0 win over Sweden.
Foster’s men then needed to top an Elite Round qualifying group which included Portugal, Republic of Ireland and Armenia.
But cheered on by passionate support from fans at Walsall, Rotherham and Chesterfield, the MU19s booked their flights to Slovakia courtesy of a 3-1 win over Republic of Ireland, 4-0 victory against Armenia and the crucial 2-0 against Portugal in the group decider.
Foster said: “I genuinely felt in November that we had a very difficult draw away in Sweden, with Sweden and Switzerland in our group. Switzerland are a really good and exciting team and were probably the best Pot 3 team, so we wanted to avoid them really.
“So it was difficult but it was great for the players because it was their first experience of competitive football at international level because they missed out on Under-17 level because of Covid. So it was really tough but it was enjoyable.
“Then in March, you always get a big hitter and a really strong nation in your group because only seven of the 28 teams qualify from the Elite Round and ours ended up being Portugal.
“We assumed qualification would come down to that last game with Portugal and it was a game we had to win.
“We were the only team who qualified with nine points and we only conceded one goal across the six games, which was pleasing, so we are in a good place heading into the tournament.
“The challenge for us now is to make sure we get the players that we want for the tournament in June.”
Highlights: MU19s 2-0 Portugal
Watch England MU19s secure qualification for this summer's EUROs
England MU19s benefit from having an extremely talented squad, with the likes of Aston Villa duo Carney Chukwuemeka and Tim Iroegbunam, Manchester City pairing Sam Edozie and Liam Delap, Chelsea’s Harvey Vale and Spurs striker Dane Scarlett all playing senior first team football this season, with a few even playing in the Champions League and UEFA Conference League.
The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Callum Doyle and Brooke Norton-Cuffy have secured regular game time away from their parent clubs at Football League sides, while players like Alex Scott, Ronnie Edwards and Daniel Jebbison have been playing consistently for Bristol City, Peterborough United and Sheffield United respectively.
Celtic goalkeeper Tobi Oluwayemi and Juventus winger Sam Iling-Junior are also travelling to St. George’s Park for camps from further afield.
Foster said: “I’ve been pleased with the amount of first team football some of the players have been getting but it is a really diverse group in terms of where they get their football. We have had players represent us this season who play regularly in the Under-18 Premier League, some in Premier League 2, some who have been playing first team football in League One and the Championship and then some in the Premier League. We have also had some who have tasted some European football and some who play overseas as well, at different age groups and levels.
“It is always nice when the players get that first team recognition and hopefully this competition will give them the platform to play more games for their first team next season.”
Further updates on where you can follow the 2022 UEFA European Under-19 Championship Finals action will be provided in due course but you can read about all things MU19s here.