As well as Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga will remember Bartol Franjic and Luka Ivanusec with a shudder. Both were instrumental in Dinamo Zagreb’s defeat of Spurs which shook Jose Mourinho so vigorously, he sent his entire squad to Coventry.
And welcome to coverage of England’s final group D game from the 2020 U21 Euros against Croatia. Aidy Boothroyd’s team are in a pretty parlous position, having lost their previous two games in Slovenia and if they are to have a batsqueak of a chance to make it through to the knockout stages when the tournament resumes in the summer, they need Portugal to beat Switzerland and to overhaul a goal difference deficit of three with both Croatia and the Swiss.
There has been a great deal of criticism aimed at Boothroyd, much of it based on perceptions of how his Watford team played, but, as he acknowledged himself last night, the measure of his job is how many U21-qualified players are currently serving in the senior side more than tournament success with his group. Most countries see this as a valuable tournament, a kind of finishing school for tournament play that can only benefit the senior set-up in the long run. England seem to be focusing more on the U19s, U18s and U17s for that and fast-track, egged on by the impatience of the press and public, any in-form player who may be eligible and perhaps more suitable for Boothroyd’s team. Nonetheless, the knives are out.
“The England senior men’s job was called the impossible job,” Boothroyd said yesterday. “The England U21 team is the utterly impossible job.
“It’s not possible to win at all levels. Part of the reason we haven’t won this for 37 years is [my job is] to get players to the first team.
“You shouldn’t be working in youth development if you think your job is to win every game and not produce players for the senior team.”
So, in the absence, either with the first team or through injury, of Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Mason Greenwood and Reece James, Boothroyd enters the fray here with one hand tied behind his back.
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