England have steadily improved as the European U21 Championships have gone along, starting with a disappointing 0-0 opener against Sweden, following that up with a come-from-behind win over Slovakia where they played well for a half, and finishing the group stage with a dominant 3-0 win over hosts Poland to book a place in the semifinals.
An early goal from Demarai Gray set the tone as England controlled proceedings and repeatedly threatened the hosts’ goal, especially from set pieces. A second goal halfway through the second-half sealed the deal while a third, from a Lewis Baker penalty kick, put the flourish on the scoreline that the performance deserved. Baker’s penalty was won by Tammy Abraham, who played just 15 minutes after starting only on the bench despite being one of England’s better players through the first two games.
The only sour note from a Chelsea perspective was the apparent groin injury suffered by Nathaniel Chalobah, just as he himself was finally putting in an undoubtedly excellent shift. He was withdrawn a few minutes from half-time and early indicators are already putting his participation for the second week of the tournament in doubt.
England do have five days to recover before Tuesday’s semifinal where they will face either the winner of Group C (likely to be Germany) or the runners-up from either Group B or C. The three group winners and the best second place finisher advance to the semifinals — Slovakia finished second in Group A with 6 points and a goal difference of +3 to set the early pace in that regard.