Nemanja Matic, Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil, Mats Hummels, and Jerome Boateng are just a number of the big names stars of today that represented their countries at U21 level at the European Championships in Sweden in 2009.
Whilst England had some good players in their team at that tournament like Joe Hart, James Milner, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs; players who have all represented England a full international level with 154 caps between them.
The fact is though, very few of the 23-man squad at the tournament have had full caps, with only seven players getting that honour.
Whereas 11 members of the Germany squad that famously beat England 4-0 in the final have gone on to represent Germany at full international level, with 4 more representing different countries.
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And indeed many of that Germany squad did lift the World Cup last summer in Brazil, highlighting the impact a good U21 side can have on the national side.
So who knows, a successful tournament this time round could be the catalyst for England to win the 2018 World Cup? But Gareth Southgate’s men do have work to do after losing their opener last night.
The defeat came as a surprise as the young Lions side is much fancied to win the tournament, and the 1-0 defeat against Portugal ended a run of 18 consecutive matches England have scored in.
A couple of unfortunate injuries to key players Saido Berahino and John Stones would not have helped England, but despite that and the defeat I would still expect them to get through to the semi-final stage.
As there are some top players in Southgate’s side, whilst not all of the 23 won’t quite reach full international level, a number of this lot certainly will and a few already have.
Players like Harry Kane, Carl Jenkinson, James Ward-Prowse, Will Hughes, Alex Pritchard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Calum Chambers and Danny Ings would all be expected to make that step up to full international level. All of these players are in the mould of the modern day international player, technically sound but athletically dominant.
Jenkinson is an athletic marauding right back who will surely get a chance at right-back for England in the near future, considering Roy Hodgson is playing Phil Jones unsuccessfully there at the moment.
Harry Kane will only improve and after his impressive breakthrough season where he was named PFA Young Player of the Year the future looks bright for the Tottenham forward.
He is a scorer of all types of goals and will surely be leading the line for England in the near future, and could potentially be the focal point of the England attack for years to come.
Ward-Prowse, Pritchard, Loftus-Cheek and Hughes have had relatively quiet starts to the clubs careers when compared to Harry Kane, however that is not to say that this midfield four could be forming the base of England’s midfield for years to come.
In Hughes and Loftus-Cheek there is a nice mix of physicality and control whilst in Pritchard and Ward-Prowse there is a nice mix of creativity and technical ability, both being free kick specialists.
All of which are vital components at international level to dominant and control games, something England have always struggled with.
The European Championships in France next summer may seem like a while away now, but the time will fly by and it is vitally important that in that time the players mentioned all get regular first team football to grow and develop to have any chance of getting into the England squad for that tournament.
Whilst it will take a lot for some of the players like Ward-Prowse, Pritchard, and Loftus-Cheek to force the door open it isn’t impossible. As there is of course no reason why these youngsters can’t replicate a Harry Kane like performance next season and force their way in, the talent is there.