Very difficult group but Young Lions have to beat the best – Aidy Boothroyd

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Aidy Boothroyd admits England Under-21s face a difficult challenge after being drawn against Portugal, Croatia and Switzerland at Euro 2021.

The Young Lions will play in Group D in next year’s competition in Hungary and Slovenia.

Boothroyd’s team, who were one of the top seeds in Thursday’s draw, are aiming to win the tournament for the first time since 1984.

“They are very difficult teams, very difficult opponents, but then you look at all the groups and they are all tough,” said the boss. “That’s what we qualified for because we want to play against the best. In order to progress we have to beat the best.

“It’s just been the 36 years (since winning) with two semi-finals and a final in between that.

“The way we have been playing and the way we qualified I have been really pleased with. Now we have to take that to the next stage. We know what we have to do and how far we want to go.”

England met Croatia in Group C at Euro 2019 and drew 3-3 in San Marino.

All of their group games will be held in Slovenia in Koper, Domzale or the capital Ljubljana.

England were unbeaten in qualifying, winning nine and drawing one to top Group Three, with Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah the top scorer in qualifying with 13.

The tournament has been split next year, with UEFA reorganising due to the coronavirus pandemic. The group stage will be held between March 24-31 with the knock-out phase in May and June, ahead of the rescheduled senior European Championship.

Boothroyd added: “The most important game is the first game, then our second and third. While we can talk about May, if we don’t do our jobs properly and don’t get a bit of luck we won’t be going there anyway.”

The Young Lions were knocked out of the group stage in 2019 – failing to win a game after losing to Romania and France before their draw with Croatia.

Phil Foden, James Maddison, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dean Henderson were part of the squad which underachieved.

England were runners-up in 2009 – losing to Germany – and reached the semi-finals under Boothroyd in 2017, being beaten by Germany on penalties.

The competition has been extended to 16 teams for the first time, with defending champions Spain favourites.

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