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How have Everton’s Under-21 internationals done so far?

James Garner and Jarrad Branthwaite have been in action for England at the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championships

England - Germany
Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite puts in a great tackle against Weiper of Germany
Photo by Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images

England’s Under-21s cruised into the quarter finals of the UEFA Under 21 championship, beating Germany 2-0 on Wednesday evening. For the last 23 minutes the team featured three Everton players who were at the club at the beginning of last season, namely James Garner, Jarrad Branthwaite and former Blue Anthony Gordon!

Garner has featured in all three games so far, two of them as a right back keeping one-time rumoured Everton-target Ben Johnson of West Ham and Max Aarons of Norwich City, both established right backs, out of the side. He came on as a substitute for the last 35 minutes of Wednesday’s game against Germany and played in a more conventional central midfield role alongside the impressive Cole Palmer of Manchester City.

Branthwaite, on the other hand, has been kept out of the side for the first two games by Manchester City’s Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Chelsea’s Levi Colwill. On what was the day after his 21st birthday, he played the full 90 minutes plus injury time as the left-sided centre back alongside Charlie Cresswell of Leeds United.

Incidentally, the team managed by former Blues midfield stalwart Lee Carsley, played exceptionally well as a whole in all three games securing three 2-0 victories. Neither of the current Blues looked out of place at all. But what of their individual performances?

Czechia v England - UEFA Under-21 Euro 2023
James Garner in action as a right back against Czechia
Photo by Alex Caparros - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

James Garner in his first match had, in the very early stages as a conventional right back in a flat back four, looked a little uncomfortable positionally without ever getting caught out to the cost of a major chance at his team’s goal. He settled well and after 20 minutes made a great recovery interception to halt a promising attack as he covered one of the centre backs. That seemed to give him confidence and he went onto demonstrate the parts of his game we all know he can do well. He dovetailed really well with Chelsea’s right winger Noni Madueke playing him in neatly in the final third once or twice and getting two shots away himself, one left-footer deflected over and a scuffed right footer at the goalkeeper.

That pattern was repeated in a much tougher second game where Madueke, in particular, didn’t shine as much. Rested rather than demoted for the third game as England had already qualified, he came on in central midfield in the 57th minute with the game pretty much won but with Germany pressing to at least get a consolation goal. He was neat and tidy on the ball as you would expect but one particular body shimmy left a German midfielder on his back as he brought the ball towards the halfway line for a promising attack. A sign of things to come in the blue of Everton hopefully.

Speaking of the blue of Everton there has been mounting speculation about Branthwaite’s future and until the Toffees squad regroups as a whole that uncertainty will no doubt continue. Now that England have progressed, the Blues pair on show on Wednesday will not be under Sean Dyche’s scrutiny immediately as they will need recovery time for sure.

England v Germany - UEFA Under-21 Euro 2023
Branthwaite in action against Germany
Photo by Giorgi Ebanoidze/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Branthwaite played quite well, using possession nicely, rarely giving the ball away and once or twice close to providing a killer through ball. He won several important headers in the England penalty area to relieve pressure and made a magnificent sliding tackle to prevent a clear shot on goal. On the one occasion towards the end when he did get “skinned” by a German attacker the move came to nothing as England’s goalkeeper (ironically called James Trafford from Manchester City) made a comfortable save with Branthwaite back in position to tidy up.

In the short term England’s gain might be Everton’s loss as the pair will certainly be delayed joining the main group at the critical time of pre-season training. That might also apply to a few other internationals such as Jordan Pickford who has only recently completed England duty and Jamaica’s new cap Demarai Gray.