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England’s semifinal match-up at European U21 Championships is set

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A goal by Federico Bernardeschi in the 30th minute yesterday changed the fates of at least four teams. It propelled Italy to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over previously undefeated Germany and to the top of Group C on the final day of the group games at the European U21 Championships.

It also knocked Slovakia out of the semifinals by virtue of being the only goal in this game, the 1-0 defeat leaving Germany on six points and a goal difference of +4 while Slovakia, with one more goal scored than Germany in their group games, finished with a goal difference of +3.

As the best second place team from the three groups, Germany were thus handed a semifinal date against England on Tuesday. Fairly impressive impact for what was a fairly ridiculous goal from Italy and Bernardeschi, who was the right man in the right place at the right time following a turnover just outside the German penalty box.

So it will be England against Germany in Tuesday’s first semifinal and Spain against Italy in the second — a classic quartet of traditional powers, and one that Chelsea’s Lewis Baker is looking forward to testing his and his team’s mettle against.

“I think the pressure has come off us a little bit now because we got through the group stages and into the semi-finals but I know the boys want to go as far as we can and we're all looking to achieve something big.”

“We've been in big games before like at the Toulon tournament last year when we won that. As a team and a squad we're used to playing together in important matches so we'll just take it in our stride. As you start playing more and more games the momentum starts building and the confidence builds and we've started playing like we know we can.”

-Lewis Baker; source: Mail

Baker is expected to start, as he has all three games so far, as is Tammy Abraham, who was rested in the third game, apparently just due to fatigue rather than anything tactical or performance-related. Unfortunately, Nathaniel Chalobah is likely to miss at least this game due to the apparent groin injury he suffered in the previous match. He’s due to be assessed at some point this weekend, but initial reports didn’t sound too hopeful.