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High-scoring England set for Group 4 challenge

England scored 18 unanswered goals in their qualifying round and will take some stopping in elite round Group 4, which also includes Czech Republic, Italy and Albania.

England manager John Peacock
England manager John Peacock ©Getty Images

Czech Republic
The Group 4 hosts have played four friendlies this calendar year, winning (2-1) and drawing (1-1) against Northern Ireland, as well as losing (3-1) and drawing (2-2) versus Wales. "Our aim is to qualify, though I rank England and Italy among the top five teams in Europe, together with Spain, Germany and France," coach Aleš Čvančara told UEFA.com.

"Albania have skilful players and will be tricky opponents for everyone. The games will be played at big stadiums with great facilities and I hope the tournament will attract large crowds so our supporters can be our 12th player."

Qualifying round: Israel 4-2, Liechtenstein 3-0, France 0-3

Key players: Václav Černý (forward, AFC Ajax), Roman Macek (midfielder, Juventus), Jiří Klíma (forward, FC Vysočina Jihlava)

Among England's recent results is a 2-1 home reverse to Italy in September, though they followed that up with a splendid qualifying round campaign in Albania. Since then they traded 2-1 friendly victories with Belgium and were Algarve Tournament runners-up, beating the Netherlands 2-0, holding Portugal 2-2 and losing 1-0 to Germany.

Boasting strikers Dominic Solanke and Adam Armstrong, who have 12 goals in 13 caps between them yet missed the Algarve Tournament, but without injured defender Max Lowe, long-serving manager John Peacock said: "The depth of the squad is good – every year this [Algarve] tournament seems to throw up a few new faces."

Qualifying round: Armenia 4-0, Gibraltar 8-0, Republic of Ireland 6-0 (Group 7 winners)

Key players: Lewis Cook (midfielder, Leeds United AFC), Dominic Solanke (forward, Chelsea FC), Adam Armstrong (forward, Newcastle United FC)

Beaten only on penalties by Russia in last season's final, Italy qualified for the elite round with two victories and a draw and earned convincing results in their subsequent friendly fixtures. The Azzurrini won 7-0 against finals hosts Malta in December before drawing 1-1 with Spain in January and thrashing Hungary 6-0 in February.

"It was a great performance against a good Hungary side," said coach Daniele Zoratto, who can count on a few players who reached last summer's final in Slovakia and a group of emerging new names. "If we play with the same approach, we will certainly do well in the elite round. I have no doubts about the strength of this team."

Qualifying round: Ukraine 2-1, Lithuania 0-0, Sweden 3-0 (Group 2 winners)

Key players: Filippo Romagna (midfielder, Juventus), Federico Bonazzoli (striker FC Internazionale Milano), Luca Vido (forward, AC Milan)

Albania are at this stage for the second successive campaign, despite scoring just twice in this season's qualifying round after losing to Romania (0-1), drawing 0-0 with Finland and overcoming Belarus 2-1 courtesy of an added-time effort. There have been a number of youngsters – defenders Ardit Humolli and David Domgjoni, midfielder Heroid Gjoshi and forward Ardit Grainca – who have recently been granted Albanian citizenship and look likely to be involved.

"Our goal is to get as many talented players to represent Albania and continue to fill the older age-group teams with talent," said coach Dzemal Mustedanagic. "We will face strong opponents, but we will be ready."

Qualifying round: Belarus 2-1, Finland 0-0, Romania 0-1 (Group 1 runners-up)

Key players: Elhan Kastrati (goalkeeper, KS Teuta), Ardit Toli (defender, Olympiacos FC), Kleidi Bare (midfielder, Club Atlético de Madrid)