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Where the U19 EURO semis will be won and lost

With two semi-finals and a FIFA U-20 World Cup play off in store on Friday, UEFA.com's man at the U19 finals, Daniel Thacker, sizes up the sides involved at the sharp end.

Isaiah Brown has been one of England's star performers in Germany
Isaiah Brown has been one of England's star performers in Germany ©Sportsfile

England v Italy (Carl-Benz-Stadion, Mannheim, 12.00CEST)
The Young Lions' semi-final against the Azzurrini will be a battle between England's front three and Italy's back five. England have registered six goals at the finals, while Italy have only conceded twice – the best defensive record of any side.

England have scored all sorts of goals: from Dominic Solanke's fine solo finish against the Netherlands to the team move that culminated in Silvio Anočić's own goal against Croatia. Dynamic and skilful, England's front three against Italy will likely be Solanke, Isaiah Brown and Tammy Abraham.

Highlights: France 1-2 England

The Chelsea trio will come up against a typically Italian defence. Unfussy and pragmatic, the back line led by captain Filippo Romagna is impeccably organised. Behind the back four, goalkeeper Alex Meret has enjoyed an outstanding tournament, keeping his side in the game against both Germany and Austria.

England's defence – an underappreciated part of their success so far – is also well organised, but Reece Oxford, Taylor Moore and friends will now they can ill afford to concede fouls around the penalty area. Italy have struggled going forward from open play: all three of their three goals have come from dead-ball situations.

Highlights: Germany 3-4 Portugal

Portugal v France (Carl-Benz-Stadion, Mannheim, 17.00CEST)
Emilio Peixe has highlighted quick forward players as France's main threat, with his Portugal side surely detailed to deny space to Jean-Kévin Augustin and Kylian Mbappé, and attack France on the break, as they did to such devastating effect in the 4-3 victory that eliminated hosts Germany.

France coach Ludovic Batelli has already watched that game twice and will be doing so at least once more before Thursday's encounter. He will certainly encourage his side to keep the ball far better in midfield than the Germans did.

France danger man Jean-Kévin Augustin
France danger man Jean-Kévin Augustin©Sportsfile

To that end, France's key man – aside from tournament top scorer Augustin – will be captain Lucas Tousart. Strong in the tackle and unflustered in possession, the Lyon midfielder has been excellent for his side so far. If France keep the ball and create enough chances, Augustin will take them.

Furthermore, if Les Petits Bleus score early – as they did in the 5-1 victory against the Netherlands – then it will force Portugal to chase the game. That will not be in the plan for Peixe's tyros, who prefer to sit deep and cede possession.

Germany v Netherlands (FIFA U-20 World Cup play-off, Hardtwaldstadion, Sandhausen, 19.00CEST)
Germany and the Netherlands approach the play-off in contrasting moods. The hosts are on a high after a 3-0 success against Austria – their first win of the tournament – while the Dutch suffered a 5-1 reverse at the hands of France.

Highlights: Netherlands 1-5 France

The Germans' power up front that put paid to Austria's hopes might not be quite as successful against a bigger, fitter Dutch defence, but Benjamin Henrichs and Amara Conde's dynamism impressed in central midfield and they are likely to team up once more.

The Dutch attackers have been conspicuous by their absence in the last two games. If Abdelhak Nouri, Sam Lammers and Steven Bergwijn are at their best then Aron Winter's side are a match for anyone, but – low on confidence – that remains a big if.