Reading midfielder John Swift helped England to record a 3-0 win against U21 European Championships hosts Poland on Thursday evening… meaning that the Young Lions progress to the semi-final of the competition!
England entered knowing that a draw might not be enough if Slovakia were to beat Sweden in the other group game – which they did – but their dominance was rewarded on the scoreboard in Kielce to see them safely through.
Swift played the duration against the Poles – his second start of the group stage – and he was at the heart of a lot of the visitors’ promising attacks.
And any nerves were settled quickly when an all-Leicester combination resulted in a sixth-minute opener – Ben Chilwell scampered down the left, picked out Demarai Gray on the edge of the area, who let fly for the opener.
England could have netted a second soon after the half-hour mark, with Swift the architect; he received from Nathan Redmond and back-heeled a beautiful return ball through a gap, but a tackle came in before the Saints attacker could release his effort.
And then Swift himself was denied a stunning strike as goalkeeper Jakub Wrąbel – who had already frustrated Nathaniel Chalobah and Alfie Mawson from successive corners – pulled off an exceptional one-handed save from a dipping effort from the Reading man.
Again, Swift came close before the break… James Ward-Prowse whipped over a free-kick from wide which was out of reach of the goalkeeper, but within a matter of inches of connecting with the Royals man’s studs at full stretch in the six-yard box.
A near-identical situation after the break saw Swift come ever-closer – Ward-Prowse’s high, looping free-kick from deep took a slight deflection a split-second before reaching Swift at the back post, causing him to volley wide from a narrow angle.
But that second goal came 20 minutes from the end, when Gray raced down the flank and showed a cool head to pick out Jacob Murphy in the middle, just onside, to tap into the empty net.
Then in the final 10 minutes, two of Swift’s former youth side teammates from his Chelsea days fashioned a third goal – Tammy Abraham won a penalty, which resulted in Jan Bednarek’s second yellow card for the foul, and Lewis Baker slotted in the spot-kick.
Swift nearly had an assist to his name for an England fourth… breaking in stoppage time, he carried the ball the length of the pitch before picking a pass for Baker, who wasn’t able to round the goalkeeper.
So Swift and England are two wins from being crowned champions of Europe!
They’ll be joined in the semis by the other two group winners and the best-placed runner-up… so we won’t know the draw until the group stage is completed on Saturday evening. Spain and Germany are current leaders in Groups B and C respectively, while Italy, Czech Republic and Portugal are among the teams still in the hunt to be in the final four.