Portugal face England in the U19 European Championship final at the Tengiz Burjanadze Stadium in Gori, Georgia. Despite goalscoring sensation José Gomes missing the tournament through injury, Hélio Sousa’s squad largely consists of players who were crowned U17 European champions in Azerbaijan last summer.
Both nations have lost two previous U19 finals, while Portugal will earn the unenviable record of losing 8 European Youth Championship finals if they are defeated in Gori. Keith Downing’s side are packed with equally promising talent and will be hoping to bookend a successful run for England this summer with more silverware after winning the U20 World Cup and making the U21 European Championship semi-finals.
Let’s look at how both nations have performed thus far and analyse the match in Gori.
How they got here – Portugal
Portugal edged past host nation Georgia in the first round of matches, Rui Pedro’s penalty the difference as the Seleção held on with 10 men after Gedson Fernandes was sent off in the 73rd minute. Mesaque Dju put Portugal in front against the Czech Republic but the lead was short-lived as Martin Graiciar equalised before half time. However, Rui Pedro who scored the winner for the second game running after substitute Rafael Leão beat two defenders and whipped in a cross which was headed in by the Porto striker.
With a semi-final place assured, Sousa rotated against Sweden but the Seleção found themselves 2-0 behind in the 61st minute. Rafael Leão pulled one back and substitute João Filipe levelled from the spot to preserve their unbeaten record. Portugal largely outplayed the Netherlands in the semi-final, creating more goalscoring opportunities and securing a 1-0 victory courtesy of Gedson Fernandes’ 24th minute strike.
How they got here – England
England defeated Bulgaria 2-0 under 40ºC heat in Tbilisi thanks to early goals in each half from Mason Mount and Ryan Sessegnon. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale made two important saves in the first half as the Young Lions prevailed. In the next match, England dominated the Netherlands but were unable to capitalise, eventually securing victory in the 84th minute with substitute Ben Brereton scoring the winner.
Germany outplayed England in the opening half of the final group game, Trevoh Chalobah and Andre Dozzell both going off injured for the Young Lions inside 15 minutes. Locked at 0-0 at half time, Brereton scored from the spot and added his third goal in two games before Tobias Warschewski made it 2-1. With Germany throwing caution to the wind, England proved ruthless on the counter attack with Ryan Sessegnon scoring two late goals and Mason Mount ending with three assists.
England were firm favourites heading into the semi-final against the Czech Republic but Keith Downing’s side were pushed all the way. After an even first half where Jay DaSilva hit the post, the Czech side had numerous chances to take the lead late on but were unable to beat Ramsdale in goal. Czech hearts were broken in the final minute of stoppage time, Lukas Nmecha producing a clever back heeled finish to turn in Marcus Edwards’ cross.
Danger man – Portugal
Portugal are blessed with an abundance of high class talent but 18-year-old Benfica forward João Filipe gets the nod. Playing mainly on the left wing in Georgia, Filipe has shown frequent examples of his technical ability, decision making and calmness under pressure. Regarded as one of Portugal’s brightest prospects, he scored seven goals in the U17 Euro qualifying campaign and recently scored two goals in Benfica’s 4-2 triumph against Real Madrid in the Youth League semi-finals.
In addition to his goalscoring prowess, Filipe is a superb proponent of the stepover which allows him to bamboozle defenders, hit the byline and create scoring opportunities. It would be no surprise to see him play a major role in the final.
Danger man – England
Eighteen-year-old Mason Mount has been with Chelsea since he was six, the attacking midfielder recently named Academy Player of the Year after captaining the Blues to wins in the FA Youth Cup and the Under-18s competition.
England’s #10 is known for his attacking prowess, technique, creativity, and two-footed ability. In addition to those impressive array of skills, Mount can beat the opposition with pace, dribbling, trickery and passing which all combines to make him a nightmare to defend against. His vision has been evident on numerous occasions thus far in Georgia, frequently putting teammates into promising positions and providing three assists against Germany. The playmaker constantly drifts across the front line to find open space, and if Portugal are to emerge victorious they will need to shut him down.
It would be surprising to see major changes from either side despite the short turnaround between matches. These youngsters don’t suffer from the same demanding schedules as their senior counterparts, and it’s likely we saw each managers’ strongest starting XI in the semi-finals.
I guarantee we will see both managers using their bench to full effect. The summer heat in Georgia has been extreme with drinks breaks required during each half. We have seen frequent occasions of substitutes being the difference makers throughout the tournament, and as players inevitably tire during the second half, expect more of the same in Gori.
What to expect
Despite the pressures of appearing in a tournament final, we are likely to see an exciting, open and attacking game. Predicting a winner is a tricky exercise with both teams very evenly matched and displaying no obvious advantages. Sousa agreed, saying: “It will be an open match, very even in every department, and we’ll try to win.” To predict the outcome of this game and other football matches go to FootballPredictions.com.
Sousa would have been buoyed by the ways in which Germany and the Czech Republic were able to sustain pressure against England. He will have devised plans to exploit the Young Lions vulnerabilities, one could be in central midfield where Rui Pires, Gedson Fernandes and Domingos Quina have formed a formidable trio.
Another factor that could be useful for the Seleção is that this will be their third match at the Tengiz Burjanadze Stadium in Gori, while England have played all their matches in Tbilisi.
May the best team win. Força!
By Matthew Marshall (Twitter: @noobzcorp)