Gary Cahill is expecting an "even harder game" when England look to build on their opening day draw with a meeting against five-time winners Italy in Arnhem.
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Gary Cahill is expecting an "even harder game" for England on Thursday as they look to build on their opening day draw with a meeting against five-time UEFA European Under-21 Championship winners Italy in Arnhem.
With first-choice centre-back pairing Anton Ferdinand and Steven Taylor ruled out through injury and suspension, respectively, Aston Villa FC youngster Cahill was paired with Nedum Onuoha – usually a right-back - at the heart of England's defence. The pair had made only six U21 appearances between them yet although they were worked hard by the Czech forwards, stood firm. "As a back four the gaffer said before that he wants us to keep a clean sheet and that's exactly what we did," said the 21-year-old. "Scott Carson produced a great save from a free-kick but apart from that they didn't have many chances - we had more."
England could not convert their opportunities, however, most notably when Leroy Lita skewed a late penalty just wide, and so there is an added pressure going into their second Group B fixture against an Italian side with a formidable pedigree in this tournament. "It will be an even harder game as they've got some good, clever players," continued Cahill, who knows at first hand having played in the 3-3 draw with the Azzurrini at the new Wembley Stadium in March. "With the squad we've got here we're capable of beating everybody though. It's all set for a good game and I'm looking forward to it.
"We're always confident when we go into matches; everyone knows the quality in our squad so there's no reason why we shouldn't be. The team spirit is great, everyone gets on, and that helps." Cahill may have to be content with a place on the substitutes' bench at the Gelredome with Ferdinand and Taylor both expected to regain their places. Yet if that is the case, the Sheffield-born defender is happy to soak up the experience, adding: "It hits you what it's all about when you get over here, start training, start preparing and you see the coverage this tournament gets. It sinks in then."