England Under-19s coach Keith Downing wants the success of the Young Lions this summer can continue to drive all of the teams on to further glory after his side delivered a first European Championship title with a 2-1 victory over Portugal in Georgia on Saturday.
Manchester City forward Lukas Nmecha swept in what proved to be the winner after 68 minutes at the Tengiz Burjanadze Stadium in Gori, where Aston Villa defender Easah Suliman nodded England in front at the start of the second half only for an own goal from Chelsea right-back Dujon Sterling to level things up.
England finished the match with 10 men after Fulham’s Tayo Edun collected a second yellow card in the 86th minute but were not to be denied their moment of triumph, having last won the then European Under-18 Championship crown in 1993.
The efforts of Downing’s squad in Georgia, where they have grown in confidence during the tournament after topping Group B following a 4-1 win over Germany in Tbilisi and a dramatic semi-final victory with a stoppage-time goal from Nmecha against the Czech Republic, followed on the back of more impressive displays through the Football Association’s youth set-up.
England enjoyed historic success at the Under-20 World Cup and also won the Toulon Tournament, while reaching the final of the European Under-17 competition and the Under-21s then made the semi-finals of their European Championship in Poland last month, losing on penalties to Germany.
“It has created a huge momentum this year,” Downing said.
“We have heavily invested in St George’s Park in the last five years. What we need to do now is sustain this success and continue working through all the age groups.
“It has been a big year for us and we’ll enjoy it, but we’ll continue to work.
“We showed another side of ourselves today, more of a defensive side — there was some real good defending, individually and as a group.
“Every game is tough — the Czech Republic gave us a real tough game and Portugal did so again today, but these boys are real talented youngsters. Six boys are under 18 so it’s a young group, but they showed resilience as well as quality.”