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Stoppage time stunner sends England out of European Under-21 Championships

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Heading into five additional minutes, it was only stoppage time separating England’s young lions and a return ticket for the summer knockouts.

Finally, a performance worthy of the richly talented squad that made the journey for the seven-day group stage tournament.

Goals either side of half-time from Eberechi Eze and Curtis Jones were enough to finish second and snatch a place in the quarter-finals, until Domagoj Bradaric struck purely from 25 yards out to grab the crucial goal.

Despite an impressive performance, and a win on the night, Boothroyd’s side were sent crashing out on goal difference.

The making of the exit, however, wasn’t the Croatian full backs wonder strike, it was the two losses at the hands of Switzerland and Portugal.

Conceding four in three games would never benefit England’s chances of progression, though their problem lied with how many times they put the ball in the back of the net.

The two scored against Croatia were the only goals they notched throughout the group stage. Being held by a resolute Portugal, who wouldn’t ship a goal all week, wasn’t ideal but certainly not as embarrassing as their opening day defeat.

Most staggeringly, they fired blank against a Switzerland side that would go onto concede six following the 1-0 win against England.

For as threatening as England looked all night, it was too late, and they suffered the same fate as their 2019 campaign, a bitterly disappointing group stage exit.

Ultimately, Bradaric’s effort was the nail in the coffin, and the defining moment that would send Croatia through as runner’s up to Portugal in Group D.

Netherlands, Spain and Denmark top highly competitive groups

Despite going unbeaten throughout the group stage, Netherlands, Germany and Romania had to be split by goal difference, to decide who would progress as group winners and runners-up.

In the end, the Netherlands were the most deserving winners of the group, after an emphatic 6-1 rout of Hungary to add to draws against Romania and Germany.

Hungary were inevitably the ones who decided the fate of the group, Romania could only beat them 2-1, but a 3-0 opening day win for Germany was enough to see them progress to the knockouts.

Group B was more straightforward. Holders Spain brushed aside Slovenia and Czech Republic with relative ease, and in between the games played out a goalless draw against Italy to top the group.

Italy, on the other hand didn’t hit the ground running. Two draws from their opening two games meant a positive result against Slovenia was required, but they obliged with an impressive 4-0 win.

However, five red cards across their three group games certainly isn’t what Paulo Nicolato would’ve wanted to contend with.

Gianluca Scamacca will return for the quarter finals after serving a one game suspension against Slovenia, however, Sandro Tonali will miss out following his three-game suspension, should the Italians not appeal it.

Denmark provided another shock as they matched Portugal as the only teams to win all three games without conceding.

Half-time substitute Anders Dreyer coolly rounded Albon Lafont before sliding home the only goal as they edged France 1-0.

Victor Nelsson and Mads Bech Sorenson formed a rock-solid partnership at the back, and laid the foundation for the Danes to build on their opening win over France, with 2 and 3-0 wins against Iceland and Russia, respectively.

Slightly underwhelming overall, France recorded a pair of 2-0 wins following their defeat to Denmark, and despite a tricky quarter final tie, look sure to give this tournament a good go.

With four fascinating quarter finals still to come, the summer knockouts look set to provide even more entertainment and separate Europe’s elite youngsters.

Spain impress in 3-0 win against Slovenia (Credit: 90min.com)

Knockout Ties:

Monday 31st May: Quarter-finals

Netherlands vs France

Denmark vs Germany

Spain vs Croatia

Portugal vs Italy

Thursday 3rd June: Semi-finals

SF1: Netherlands/France vs Denmark/Germany

SF2: Spain/Croatia vs Portugal/Italy

Sunday 6th June: Final

Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2

Featured Image Credit: Sky Sports

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