The fact that some of those nations performed so well at U21 Euros before winning major championships is not surprising.
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Defeating Spain in a dramatic, nerve-wracking final in Georgia on Saturday, the Young Lions won the European Under-21 championship for the first time in almost 40 years.

Therefore, the country’s youth set-up has achieved another triumph after winning Euros for U17s in 2014, U19s in 2017 and U19s in 2022. In 2017, the U17 and U20 squads also won a World Cup.

There is no doubt that the current crop of winners is just one step removed from Gareth Southgate’s side, so thoughts now naturally turn to which of them might graduate to help their country end its era of major silverware at the Euros next summer.

In the European Championship final, the English team survives a penalty scare to win

St George's Park is situated in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Even though England’s senior side came agonizingly close to breaking through in 2020, the infrastructure and processes used to develop national team players have improved substantially.

A long time ago, this shore cast envious glances abroad at the young promising players being produced abroad – players who would go from youth teams to excel in their national senior teams.

When it came to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, Europe alone seemed to have it figured out at various points. The minds and means were there to provide them with the tools they needed even if it didn’t always lead to major tournament success.

It is not surprising that some of those nations performed well at U21 Euros before winning major championships.

The U21 Euros were won by an Italy team that included Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo in 2000. Six years later, the same pair anchored the Azzurri’s midfield when they won the World Cup. An Italian World Cup winner, Daniele de Rossi, led Italy to victory at the 2004 U21 Euros.

Five players from the U21 Euros team played in Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory – goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, centre-backs Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Howedes, and Mats Hummels, and midfielder Mesut Ozil.

It is interesting to note that France, the nation England attempts to emulate with their development strategy, has not done well at U21 level. Although this has not hindered the flow of talent to the senior team, it has certainly hampered production.

England looked at how France’s Clairefontaine academy, built in 1988, had helped Les Bleus win the World Cup a decade later and the Euros two years later following their unsuccessful World Cup campaign in 1998. Because they only saw positives, they largely copied it.

After the revamp of the English game in 2012, St George’s Park became the architectural epicenter, which facilitated the country’s success at age-group levels ever since.

In order to make the investment worthwhile, senior silverware must follow. Many of Southgate’s players have won tournaments at youth level, including Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Reece James, Aaron Ramsdale, Marc Guehi, and Conor Gallagher.

Smith Rowe was restricted to 15 appearances in total for Arsenal last season, during which he played just 240 minutes

Therefore, the U21s who have already played for Southgate’s senior team are most likely to graduate.

Emile Smith Rowe has earned three caps for his country as a substitute during Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Ivory Coast in March 2022. It was in a World Cup qualifying match against San Marino in November 2021 that he made his full debut, scoring a goal and assisting another.

Despite not receiving an official call-up, Levi Colwill trained with the senior group for the first time during the Euro 2024 qualifying match in Malta last month.

Although they have played well in Georgia and Romania, if they are able to play for their clubs in 2023-24, they will have a better chance of playing in the senior tournaments in 2024.

As he struggles to make his way up the Gunners’ attacking midfield and forward pecking order after a difficult injury season last year, Smith Rowe is now competing for starts.

Following Colwill’s impressive loan spell at Brighton, the Blues have stiff competition at centre-back under Mauricio Pochettino.

Do you know of any other contenders?

During the latter stages of the U21 Euros, Smith Rowe was given a greater role due to an injury to Jacob Ramsey. It is expected that Ramsey will play an important role for Aston Villa next season as well.

If he builds on his impressive Premier League performances last season of scoring six goals and contributing seven assists, he will have a good chance of inclusion since he will be able to sample European football under a manager who knows how to go deep in such competitions in 2023-24.

The same can be said for Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott at Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp highly rates both players and trusts them as well as having European experience.

Liverpool won seven and drew four games out of 11 games in which he started last season. During the U21s’ 3-0 semi-final win over Israel, he led the team with calm, composed performance. He also scored the winning goal in the final, although he may not have been aware of it!

At Anfield, Alexis MacAllister and Dominik Szoboszlai have added competition to the midfield, but this could benefit him rather than hinder him.

Additionally, Anthony Gordon was named the tournament’s player of the tournament after matching his goal tally for Newcastle’s Under-21s. Despite joining Newcastle last January for £45m from Everton, Gordon has a huge season ahead of him.

As we’re talking decent money, James Trafford is destined to become the third most expensive English goalkeeper in history and will have plenty of exposure next season as Burnley’s new captain.

The Spaniard’s last penalty on Saturday was saved by him deep into injury time, and his reputation has skyrocketed.

Gibbs-White made 40 appearances in total for Nottingham Forest last season, scoring five goals and assisting eight more

Morgan Gibbs-White, an intelligent and skilful midfielder who helped Nottingham Forest avoid relegation last year, has been one of England’s best players.

It will be an opportunity for him to showcase his talents once more during the 2023-24 season.

Despite the abundance of talent available to him, his biggest challenge, as with all attacking players, will be breaking into the senior squad.

Gibbs-White, Gordon, and Chelsea’s Noni Madueke are surrounded by world-class talent such as Foden, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, and Marcus Rashford, along with high-quality players such as Jadon Sancho and Jarrod Bowen.

England lacks elite talent at centre-back – something Colwill may be able to take advantage of if he gets club minutes and performs well.

As long as Kalvin Phillips continues to struggle for game time at Manchester City, Ramsey or Jones may be able to step up from central midfield and replace Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.