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‘It was our time’: England Under-21s revel in European Championship win

The England Under-21s captain, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, has declared “it was our time” after the Young Lions’ European Championship success.

Lee Carsley’s side lifted the trophy for the first time in 39 years in Georgia with victory over Spain in Saturday’s final and the Manchester City defender Harwood-Bellis hailed the squad’s collective effort.

James Trafford saved Abel Ruiz’s stoppage-time penalty and Aimar Oroz’s follow-up in a thrilling 1-0 win at the Batumi Arena as England finished the tournament without conceding a goal.

England last lifted the trophy under Dave Sexton in 1984 after beating Spain 3-0 on aggregate over two legs and Harwood-Bellis said: “We’ve been talking about it a lot and we felt it was our time to do it. There was a lot of pressure on us to do well as we have a good team. We’re like one big family, it’s like a club. We’ll all celebrate together.”

Harwood-Bellis also saluted his City teammate Trafford, who revealed after the final that he had told teammates and friends before the match that he was going to save a penalty.

Harwood-Bellis added: “Traff has to take a lot of the credit, but everyone has played their part. We kept a clean sheet against Germany, they’re a top team, it’s not easy to do that. All the lads have pushed each other when they’ve not been playing. That’s something we take pride in. We dug in against Portugal, we dug in here again, and having that in our locker is massive.”

The under-21s were losing finalists in 2009, but Saturday’s success follows the European Under-19 Championship triumph last year, while the under-17s and under-20s both won their age-group World Cups in 2017.

The Football Association’s chief executive, Mark Bullingham, who was at Saturday’s final, said: “Congratulations to Lee Carsley, his players and support team for winning the U21 European Championship. The manner in which this England squad has progressed through the tournament has been hugely impressive, and to do it without conceding a goal is simply remarkable.”

Bullingham added: “This is the second successive summer that one of our men’s development teams have been crowned champions of Europe and that is testament to the ongoing work across our entire England pathway, and the outstanding work being done by clubs.

“We are fortunate to have talented people at St George’s Park and we continue to invest in creating winning England men’s and women’s teams that consistently reach the latter stages of tournaments.”

Source: The Guardian