Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Max Sanders insists that England’s under-19 squad will have to be at their best again this afternoon when they take on Ukraine in their second game of the European Championships in Finland, kick-off 4.25pm.
The Three Lions beat Turkey in their first game of the contest 3-2 on Tuesday, and the second contest of the finals will be another stern test according to the Albion man, with France making up the group.
He said, “They’re [Ukraine and France] both very good teams - they played the other day and it was a very even game, France got a player that got sent off which changed the balance of the game.
“Ukraine are very organised and are definitely a threat on the counter attack. There are no bad sides in this competition and there are only eight teams.
“They’ve all done really well to qualify for it and every game is very hard.”
The call-up to Paul Simpson’s side has capped a hugely successful year for Sanders - the midfielder was captain of the Seagulls’ under-23 side that clinched promotion to the top division of the Premier League 2 last term, as well as earning a place on the bench for the first team’s Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United at Old Trafford in March.
The 2017/18 campaign was completed with him being named in the squad that Simpson has taken to the finals, and he admitted that it's been a whirlwind year.
“I got told a couple of days before we met up and I was quite speechless when I found out. I was delighted because getting picked for your country, especially in a major competition like this, is amazing.
“That was amazing, I was a bit nervous as it was my debut for my country. There was also some excitement too, singing the national anthem for the first time on the pitch was a bit crazy and to win 3-2 on my debut was pretty surreal. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had, to make my debut at the Euros.
“This calendar year has been my best time in the game so far – I’ve got this call-up and that’s been the highlight, but I was with the first team last season and that was good, and I won promotion as well with the under-23s.”
Sanders admitted that the season just gone was one he didn’t envisage back at the start of the year, and he also shed some light on the differences between football for club and country ahead of this afternoon’s match.
“It’s been an amazing season – if someone had told me that it would be like that I probably would have laughed. It’s been fantastic and hopefully I can continue this year with Brighton – I’ve got the Euros to focus on and when I get home I’ll be focusing on the league.”
“It’s very different to club football. There are a different bunch of lads, we had a week at St George’s Park before heading out to Finland.
“It was good to all get together, because there are a lot of players coming together from different teams, but the experience has been really good.
"Knockout football is very different because when you lose you’re out, whereas you’ve always got another chance in the league. It’s been a really good experience for me, and probably the best I’ve ever had.”