Internationals: Young Lions eyeing silverware

England’s youngsters are aiming to be crowned champions of Europe at their age group for the second time in four years when they take on Spain in the Under-17 European Championship final later this evening (Friday).

Steve Cooper’s side have been faultless throughout the competition this season, breezing through the qualification rounds with a 100% winning run, a record which has been maintained at the final tournament with five wins from five.

The Chelsea Academy are represented with four players who have started every game at the finals in Croatia. Captain Marc Guehi (pictured top) and Under-16 Jon Panzo have formed an impressive partnership at centre-back, conceding just twice, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has netted on two occasions, including the opener in the semi-final victory against Turkey. In midfield, George McEachran is looking to emulate his older sibling Josh, who won the tournament as a 17-year-old back in 2010 along with Nathaniel Chalobah.

Skipper Guehi and his Chelsea teammates are looking to add to a personal medal haul for the season that includes the FA Youth Cup, Under-18 Premier League south section and national title. The defender believes that habit of winning and big-game experience will stand the young Lions in good stead tonight.

‘We have a lot of experience in this side so when we go out to play Spain that will help us,’ he told thefa.com. ‘They do have good players but we have belief in our team that we also have good players. We fully respect Spain as a fantastic footballing nation and I think it’s going to be an entertaining game.’

Callum Hudson-Odoi in action for England.

Guehi has been with Chelsea since the Under-8 age group, as have McEachran and Hudson-Odoi, and has captained his country from the Under-16s. He appreciates the job of wearing the armband for England and feels determined to step up to the task.

‘It has been an honour to be here at a major European Championship as captain and it has been a fantastic tournament. We want to make our families proud, our clubs proud and all of the people at home proud.’

For Panzo and Hudson-Odoi, the tournament has brought not just footballing challenges. The pair are still schoolboys and, like every teenager in the country their age, they face the daunting test of GCSE exams this spring. In the aftermath of the semi-final win over Turkey, they headed for the classroom to face a biology paper.

‘It’s made clear to us early on that you can’t just think about football as education is important as well,’ Hudson-Odoi explained to thefa.com. ‘We need to get the right exam results for our life in general so I had to prepare mentally for it.

‘Biology isn’t one of my favourite subjects and obviously I was buzzing after scoring in the semi-final but I had to get myself ready for it. I just can’t wait for the final now. Everyone is buzzing as we know this will be a huge moment for us.’

Kick-off in Croatia is 7pm UK time and the game will be shown live on Eurosport.