Preview: U19 EURO semi-finals
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
The Carl-Benz-Stadion in Mannheim is the venue for both UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals on Thursday as England take on Italy and Portugal meet France.
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England v Italy (12:00CEST, Carl-Benz-Stadion, Mannheim)
• England and Italy meet for the second time this UEFA European Under-19 Championship season, the teams having drawn 0-0 in a qualifying round fixture in Skopje on 13 October. "They're very well organised, they've got some good players and it'll be a very, very difficult game, but you wouldn't expect anything else at this stage," said England coach Aidy Boothroyd, whose side won all three of their Group B matches. "At this stage, they're all good teams and they've all got big strengths – and weaknesses."
• Reaching the final would be a "dream" for Group A runners-up Italy and their coach Paolo Vanoli. "This is the result of a project that for six years we have been carrying on with the federation thanks to the good connection between all national youth teams, starting from U15 level," he explained. "A success like this will drive the entire national youth sector." Vanoli added that the Azzurrini must "pay attention to [Dominic] Solanke, [Isaiah] Brown and [Sheyi] Ojo, very useful players".
Portugal v France (17:00CEST, Carl-Benz-Stadion, Mannheim)
• Portugal coach Emilio Peixe is wary of the threat posed by a France side that qualified for the semi-finals in style by defeating the Netherlands 5-1 on Monday, Jean-Kévin Augustin scoring a hat-trick. "We know about almost all of the France players," Peixe told UEFA.com. "They have three men up front who are very quick and very skilful. That goes for all of their players. It's going to be a good game."
• France coach Ludovic Batelli is "expecting a different game to those we had in our group". Batelli's charges finished second in Group B behind England, to whom they lost on matchday one. Les Bleus responded by overcoming Croatia (2-0) and, emphatically, the Dutch. "We showed against Holland that we can play well against another attacking side, and that will stand us in good stead for this match," he said.