England Under-21s: Italy, Portugal and Sweden lie in wait at Euros

England Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate
England scored 35 goals in 12 qualification matches for next year's tournament

England have been drawn to face Italy, Portugal and Sweden in the group stage of next summer's European Under-21 Championship finals.

England will line up in Group B, while Group A pits hosts Czech Republic against Germany, Denmark and Serbia.

Gareth Southgate's Young Lions won nine out of 10 games to top their qualifying group and advanced to the finals after defeating Croatia in a play-off.

The finals tournament will be held from 17-30 June next year.

2015 European Under-21 Championship draw
Group AGroup B
Czech RepublicEngland

Italy are five-time winners of the competition and were runners-up in 2013, when they were beaten by Spain in Israel, while Portugal - who England meet in a friendly at Turf Moor on 13 November - lost in the 1994 final two years after Sweden had done the same.

England have won the competition twice, but their last success came three decades ago in 1984.

"We are effectively at the quarter-final stage so we knew whoever was in our group was going to be a challenge," Southgate told BBC Radio 5 live.

"They're attractive games and games we can look forward to."

The outcome of the draw in Prague means England avoid a group-stage encounter with Serbia, against whom the Young Lions endured a stormy encounter in Krusevac two years ago.

Southgate's team dropped only two points in qualification, courtesy of a 1-1 draw in Finland in September last year, but picked up wins in all their remaining games, with West Bromwich Albion striker Saido Berahino, called up by the England senior squad on Thursday, scoring 10 times on the way.

"We've got a lot of potential in our country," added former Middlesbrough manager Southgate, who took charge of the Under-21s in August 2013.

"They've taken on board everything we've tried to do over the last year and come through a tricky play-off in good style, so now we've got to produce in a tournament, which has been more of a challenge more recently.

"That's the next step for us. We'll need to improve between now and then to win it, which is our aim."

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