DECLAN WARRINGTON / AIPS in OLOMOUC: England are using a Swedish taunt that they are “overrated” as motivation for today’s crucial UEFA U21 Euro Group B clash here.
After losing their opener 1-0 to Portugal, manager Gareth Southgate’s team need a victory revival in Olomouc to preserve their hopes of reaching the semi-finals.
Sweden left-back Ludwig Augustinsson’s derisive description of England has been placed prominently for Southgate’s players to read.
Southgate said: “It’s been posted next to the meal room. Unfortunately it doesn’t do my job for me but it’s always interesting when the opposition make comments about your players.”
Winger Nathan Redmond, among England’s best performers against Portugal, said: “We came down the lunch and saw it posted outside the meal room. It was a good topic for discussion but we’re confident in what we can do.”
Southgate remains confident in his players’ ability to handle the pressure of a run of five consecutive defeats, including their disastrous campaign in 2013 in Israel, at the European under-21s.
He said: “The play-off game [against Croatia] was exactly the same in terms of pressure. We’ve got players like Nathan who played in a play-off final worth over a hundred million pounds, players who’ve played big Premier League and Champions League matches.
“I’m very confident we’ve got players to handle the pressure.”
England are still without concussion victim John Stones in defence. In attack Benik Afobe could make his first appearance at under-21 level after replacing injured Saido Berahino in the squad.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and is co-operating with UEFA in running a Young Reporters course in the Czech Republic. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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