Arsenal's Nketiah and Smith-Rowe set to crash out with England u-21s
- Credit: PA
Arsenal youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith-Rowe look set to crash out of the under-21 European Championships after England failed to win either of their first two group games.
Aidy Boothroyd's side still have a chance of qualification. But following losses to Switzerland and Portugal, respectively, even victory against Croatia on Wednesday will likely not be enough to secure their passage to the knockout rounds.
The young lions need to beat Croatia by two clear goals and for Portugal to beat Switzerland in order to progress to the knockout phase.
Both Nketiah and Smith-Rowe have struggled to make an impact for Boothroyd's much-fancied England outfit, with England still yet to score.
Tottenham's Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp haven't fared much better, and all four youngsters will return to North London disappointed with the way they've played both individually and collectively.
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Two years on from England's disastrous U-21 European Championships campaign, there is a sense of Deja Vu as Boothroyd's future hangs in the balance.
England have arguably an even stronger squad this year, and yet they are on course not even to match the single point a squad including Phil Foden, James Maddison and Tammy Abraham picked up two years earlier.
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Nketiah shone during qualifying, surpassing the goalscoring record held by Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers at U-21 level. Boothroyd installed the 21-year-old as captain but he has looked a shadow of his former self.
Boothroyd's contract expires in the summer and though he survived the fallout from 2019, the FA appears unlikely to renew it this time.
Boothroyd's appointment and decline follows a troubling pattern. According to its critics, the FA, over the years, has appointed too many "nice men" - Southgate, Hodgson and now Boothroyd.
The Times has reported he has only once or twice raised his voice, while the defensive nature of his training sessions appear to have stifled the abundance of creativity in the squad.
The likes of Frank Lampard and Eddie Howe have been touted as successors to Boothroyd, but it is unclear whether they would take a youth manager role.