Tuesday, July 4, 2023

U21 Euro Semifinals Set

The U21 Euro Semifinals are set for this Wednesday with no shortage of Premier League connected storylines. England reached the final four with a 1-0 victory over Portugal as Anthony Gordon continued to shine in an unaccustomed role. Newcastle’s Gordon and Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White have lined up as dual strikers this tournament for Manager Lee Carsley. Neither player is a striker for their Premier League sides, but Carsley’s gamble has paid off so far. Gibbs-White assisted on Gordon’s winner as the Young Lions now look forward to a rematch with Israel. A 2-0 England win over Israel in the group stage also featured a Gordon goal assisted by Gibbs-White. All three of England’s group stage games ended with the same 2-0 scoreline as Sunday’s 1-0 victory marked a fourth consecutive clean sheet in this tournament for the young Englishmen.

Center back Levi Colwell continues to make his case for regular minutes with Chelsea this upcoming season. The young defender performed so well at Brighton last season that the Seagulls are keen to purchase the 20-year-old. Chelsea, however, have so far indicated that Colwill is untouchable. Colwill himself has reserved comment pending discussions with new Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino which will occur following the U21 Euro tournament conclusion. The center back knows that regular minutes in league play are the only path to a place in England’s senior squad.

A couple of Manchester City youngsters have also featured in the stout English defense this tournament. Taylor Harwood-Bellis has paired with Colwill at center back in front of England goalkeeper and fellow Manchester City property James Trafford. Harwood-Bellis is back with Manchester City after his most recent loan stint helped Burnley secure  promotion to the Premier League. Prior loan postings for the 21-year-old Harwood-Bellis have included English Championship tier sides Blackburn and Stoke City as well as a run at Belgian top tier club Anderlecht. Harwood-Bellis could see a permanent move with just one year left on his Manchester City contract. The youngster is unfortunately well down the current center back pecking order for the defending champions who are reportedly in negotiations to acquire another young center back, Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig. Like Colwill, Harwood-Bellis needs regular club minutes to compete for a place on England’s senior team.

Goalkeeper Trafford, meanwhile, has been connected with rumored moves to recently relegated sides Leicester and Leeds. The 20-year-old has not played above the League One level in England, having previously played on loan for Accrington Stanley and Bolton. A move for regular playing time in the Championship would thus be a step up following his breakout tournament performance.

Wednesday’s other semifinal will feature Spain against Ukraine. Spain advanced past Switzerland 2-1 with yet another Manchester City player scoring for the Spaniards. Sergio Gomez endured a painful first season with the Citizens after last summer’s  transfer from Anderlecht. A natural winger who played as an attacking midfielder at Anderlecht, Gomez struggled as Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola tried to mold him into a left back. His defensive deficiencies in the new position resulted in a struggle for minutes and some poor performances when on the pitch. Gomez could thus leverage tournament success into a move to a situation where his talents could be better utilized.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Mykhailo Mudryk is trying to impress the new manager of his current club. Mudryk saw his first action of the tournament in Ukraine’s 3-1 win over France. Returning from a calf injury, Mudryk was electric with his passing expertise, most notably on his long-range assist on Ukraine’s second goal by teammate Heorhii Sudakov. The speedy winger also drew the penalty which Sudakov converted on Ukraine’s first goal. Mudryk took the opportunity to drop down from Ukraine’s senior squad for the U21 tournament as a chance to spotlight his skills for incoming Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino. Mudryk had trouble finding minutes for Chelsea last season and is hoping for a bigger role under Pochettino.

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