A number of young and upcoming Liverpool stars are set to miss out on the chance to represent their respective countries at the Under-19 European Championship and U20 World Cup after UEFA were forced to pull the plug due to the ongoing pandemic.
European football’s governing body have scrapped the entire competition, due to be held in Northern Ireland, and instead, have awarded the five spots in next year’s World Cup to England, France, Portugal, Italy and Holland.
England were due to face Ukraine, Denmark and Latvia in the Elite Round of qualifying next month for a place at the finals which would have presented opportunities to impress Gareth Southgate and push for a spot in the senior set-up. Instead, the young Three Lions will be left kicking their heels for the foreseeable future.
“The UEFA Executive Committee has decided to cancel the remainder of the 2019/20 UEFA Under-19 European Championship – the final tournament of which was due to be hosted in Northern Ireland – due to the current unresolved epidemiological situation in Europe and resulting travelling difficulties,” UEFA confirmed on their website.
“Since the 2019/20 edition of the UEFA Under-19 European Championship was a qualifier to the FIFA U-20 World Cup – scheduled to take place in Indonesia from 20 May to 12 June – it was decided that the five slots reserved for European teams in the competition be allocated to the teams occupying the top five positions in the UEFA qualifying round coefficient ranking for the 2019/20 season.
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“Consequently, the teams of England, France, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal (in alphabetical order) will be the European representatives nominated to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.”
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There were a number of young Liverpool players in Ian Foster’s most recent squad who would almost certainly have been involved for the Elite Round games as England looked to secure their place at the finals.
Harvey Elliott, currently on loan at Blackburn Rovers, was among those selected while Rhys Williams and Curtis Jones could also have been involved given their recent call-ups to the under-21 set-up with Aidy Bothroyd.
Former Liverpool striker Bobby Duncan was involved in all three of the U19 qualifying fixtures and scored during a 4-0 win against Luxembourg last season.
The youth set-up has been the ideal stepping stone for upcoming talents to showcase their ability on a national scale. It was only a year ago that rising stars such Bukayo Saka were with the U19’s only to make the jump to Southgate’s senior set-up 12 months later.
While it will be a blow for the players to miss out on the chance of reaching and participating in the finals – and next year’s World Cup – the chaos caused by the recent round of senior international games suggests that it is the right move by UEFA in current circumstances.