England U21s need two wins from two – Pickford


Jordan Pickford stopped Linus Wahlqvist’s penalty in the draw with Sweden

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford says England Under-21s must win their remaining two European Championship group games to reach the semi-finals, starting on Monday against Slovakia.

The winner of each of the three groups qualifies automatically, with the best second-placed team also going through.

Pickford saved a penalty as England drew their Group A opener with Sweden.

“We can’t put too much pressure on ourselves, we need to win two games,” the recent £30m Everton signing said.

“I think we can play a lot better but we still got a draw against Sweden and we can still get through.”

Slovakia beat hosts Poland 2-1 on Friday evening.

“We’ve got Slovakia and then the hosts on Thursday in front of a packed house. That’s going to be an interesting game, but that’s what we’re here for,” Pickford said.

Pickford, 23, said he was happy to secure his move from Sunderland to Everton before the tournament started.

“I didn’t know too much about it until I came out here, but I got the deal out of the way and over the line so I could focus on the Euros,” he said.

Southgate’s presence can help the team

Aidy Boothroyd has challenged his players to go into their remaining games “full pelt” and is hoping that the presence of senior England coach Gareth Southgate will help to inspire his team.

Southgate, assistant Steve Holland and Football Association technical director Dan Ashworth flew in for the game against Sweden and watched training on Sunday.

“It’s really helpful having them here,” said Boothroyd. “It shows players there is a pathway for them.

“And if the senior manager can take time out of his busy schedule to come to watch us then it gives the players a boost. Gareth’s been very positive.

“It’s great, if I have any questions about players Gareth can be my sounding board because he knows them all so well and was with them in Toulon.”

Southgate was in charge of the under-21 team from August 2013 until he took over the senior side last September.

England’s group games
Live text commentary on all matches
16 June: Sweden 0-0 England (17:00 BST)
19 June: Slovakia v England (17:00 BST)
22 June: England v Poland (19:45 BST)

‘The mood is upbeat but it is effectively knockout football’

BBC Radio 5 live chief football reporter Ian Dennis in Poland: “Quite simply, England have to win this match to maintain any hope of progressing.

“In essence, despite this being the second group game, it’s knockout football because defeat will mean England are going home.

“The mood around the camp remains relaxed and positive, they know what’s required both in terms of result and performance. Aidy Boothroyd has made it clear there is room for improvement following Friday’s display.

“On Sunday he made his feelings very clear when he said: ‘It’s knockout football now. We’ve got to win and then win the next one after that. But we have to beat the Slovakians first. They have had a brilliant start. They’re a very good team and I’ve been really impressed with them.’

“Boothroyd will sleep on his decision regarding team selection but I’m expecting there will be changes as England will look for greater creativity.

“Slovakia are an attack-minded side and after coming from behind to defeat Poland on Friday, they know another victory will take them to the brink of a spot in the semi finals.

“England have under performed at the last three European Under-21 Championships – winning just one game during that time – so victory is essential to avoid yet another early exit.”

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