Handed a late call-up to the England party in place of injured winger Callum McManaman, Nathan Delfouneso is eager to express his talent and make the most of an unexpected lifeline.
"I was very happy to get the call-up as I really wanted to come," said the ebullient 22-year-old, who has scored four goals in 16 outings for Stuart Pearce's side. "Thankfully I have got the opportunity to be involved. Now I want to play and try to impress. Hopefully we can all come back having had a successful tournament."
The Birmingham-born player is no stranger to major competitions having been part of England's set-up at Denmark 2011. Two years earlier, his reputation soared when he topped the scoring charts at the U19 finals in Ukraine. "Nathan was very unfortunate not to make the squad in the first place," said Pearce. "He has contributed a great deal in qualification and he was unlucky that McManaman's form was such that he had forced his way into the reckoning late on."
Since making his U21 bow in 2010, the Aston Villa FC striker – a tricky customer exhibiting express pace and predatory instincts – has gained invaluable first-team experience in England's second division, most recently at Blackpool FC. Now with the domestic season behind him, Delfouneso is unwaveringly focused on what he feels is a prodigious occasion for all the players to savour.
"Training is going well, everyone's working hard and the boys are enjoying it. I think we're all feeling pretty good," he said. "This is a massive tournament and a big opportunity for everyone. We're all really excited about next week and our first game; everyone's up for it and the spirit around the camp is really good."
England begin their UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaign against Italy on Wednesday and lock horns with Norway three days later. Hosts Israel represent their final Group A challenge, and Delfouneso hopes the positive atmosphere in Pearce's squad will help them rise to the occasion.
"Everyone has bonded really well," he added. "There's the usual jokes and banter going around throughout the players and the staff. It's all going smoothly and hopefully we can take that camaraderie into the tournament."
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