Day four of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship took place on Monday. Slovakia took on England in Kielce, a must win for Aidy Boothroyd’s team. The late kick-off saw hosts Poland face reigning champions Sweden, with both teams desperate for all three points.
UEFA European Under-21 Championship Day Four Review
Slovakia 1 – 2 England
Poland 2 – 2 Sweden
England secure first win
In a game attended by England manager Gareth Southgate, both teams started slowly. Struggling in the final third, England tallied just the one shot on target in the opening 20 minutes. Slovakia began to apply more and more pressure at the other end, testing the England back four. Eventually, the deadlock was broken through a Martin Chrien near post header. Failing to convert possession into chances, England were made to pay for their poor decision making. Slovakia led 1-0 at the break and were showing no signs of letting it go.
Just five minutes into the second half, Swansea defender Alfie Mawson followed up his own header and tapped home the equaliser. This goal offered England fans some hope, but there was still a lot of work to do. Continuing to push, England went ahead after a Nathan Redmond breakaway goal. England may have made hard work of their win but at this point, the three points are all that matter.
England need to make changes
In their first two games, England have been average at best. Failing to turn possession into good chances, they are in need of change. Though they are set to make it out of the group, the young Lions have looked cautious and unprepared. This team can compete with the other top teams, but changes will be key to making it to the final. The likes of Spain, Germany and Italy have set the tone after matchday one, with all three looking like the teams to beat. England are yet to announce themselves, with lacklustre and lifeless performances.
Hosts Poland rescue point late on
Less than five minutes in, Poland took the lead through a Łukasz Moneta goal. Dawid Kownacki, on his return from suspension, played a key role in the goal. Sweden were in need of a quick response, something they would get. Club Brugge striker Carlos Strandberg headed home after Alexander Fransson’s shot was parried. Sweden began to apply more pressure which led to another goal. Jacob Une Larsson headed home to give Sweden the lead. The Swedes led at the half, after completing the comeback.
Poland’s second half performance was competitive, with Sweden holding on to the lead. Entering stoppage time, Poland desperately needed a goal. Constantly pushing, Poland’s hard work and effort finally paid off when referee Slavko Vinčić awarded the hosts a penalty. Kownacki converted from the spot to draw Poland level. This was a huge goal for Poland and for England. The game ended in a draw; a result neither side will be pleased with.
Poland and Sweden lose control of Group B
England’s win over Slovakia has put Poland and Sweden in a difficult position. Sweden were just minutes away from victory: a win which would have sent them joint top of the group. Hosts Poland are still in the tournament despite being just minutes away from going out. Previous group toppers Slovakia gave up their stranglehold, and England have taken control of Group B. Matchday three will decide the winner, but it’s unlikely the tournament’s “best runner-up” will come from Group B.
Player of the day—Dawid Kownacki
Poland is clinging on for dear life, but there is still a glimmer of hope. A key man for Poland in today’s draw, Dawid Kownacki, is day four’s player of the day. Setting up Poland’s first goal, and converting a game saving penalty, Kownacki was superb. After missing matchday one through suspension, Poland’s star man stepped up when asked. The 20-year-old Lech Poznan midfielder is one of Europe’s brightest prospects and has even been compared to Polish star Robert Lewandowski. If Poland somehow find a way out of Group B, expect Kownacki to play a key role in doing so.