U19s captain Matthew James blogs about confidence in the camp.
Saturday was definitely our best performance of the competition so far. We had our game plan to go out there and try to set ourselves up in a certain way and it worked. We started the game very brightly, we had a couple of chances in the first half and so did they.
In the second half, I thought they hit us on the break to open the scoring to be honest. They had hit the post just before and had one cleared off the line, and then we had one cleared off the line too, so it was end-to-end stuff really.
From there on in though, I thought there was only one team going to win the game and that was us. The last 20 minutes or so was like the Alamo, but it was strange because we were really going for a goal and then I had the message from the sidelines to drop off a little bit.
On the pitch, we weren’t told the score from the Austria-Holland game but we just followed the instructions and changed to three at the back with the wing-backs pushing on and we eventually got the goal through Matt Phillips, who saw his header saved and then stuck the rebound in. Judging by the celebrations at the time, we knew that was enough to take us through to the semi-final.
It’s important that you have to be able to adapt to different types of formation during the game and that’s we’ve worked on across the season. We were trying to push on and get a goal because that’s what we needed at the time. We were creating chance after chance and their ‘keeper had a great game really, so it had obviously worked.
I thought we thoroughly deserved that result, if not a win. We would even have gone through with a 1-0 defeat, but then if France had scored again, we would have been going home so you can understand how difficult it must be to manage from the sidelines when there is another game’s result to take into consideration.
We got the goal though and after the game, the team spirit around the dressing room was unbelievable and we go into the next match very confidently. If we had gone through on the back of a 1-0 defeat, it wouldn’t have been quite the same. It really felt like we’d won the game on Saturday and everyone knew we’d put in a good performance and everyone knew we were going through to the next round, so we were all upbeat. There was a great atmosphere around the place and back at the hotel when we returned.
We have got gradually better and better as the games have come along in the competition so far and I think that’s good. You work at things as you go and you can learn from your mistakes, whereas if you come out here and win your first three games you may be feeling over-confident that you’re going to walk through.
France are the home team in this competition and seen as one of the favourites to win it, along with Spain, so we know we have a hard game on Tuesday now but we’ll certainly be going into the match with confidence after our last performance.
I’ve played against Spain once with England and that was a couple of years ago with the U16s. We played them in one of the first games to be staged at the new Wembley, and we won that game 1-0 thanks to a goal from Jack Rodwell. Hopefully, we can get a similar result on Tuesday. I think they’ve still got a few of the players from that match in their squad, but we know that they’ll all be very good technical players.
On Sunday, following our recovery session from the game, we were allowed to have some time to ourselves and that’s always a good thing in a tournament like this. You need to be able to switch off, because it’s not the best to be constantly thinking about football, football, football.
That gave us the chance to relax a little bit, have a good laugh with the lads and then today, everyone’s heads are back on it and we have training on Monday morning. We’ll then have a bit of rest and take it from there.
We’ve had a new arrival in the camp on Monday morning too, as Scott Malone joined up with the squad late last night following the injury to Matthew Briggs in the first game.
The management have obviously looked at it and decided to bring Scotty in, which isn’t a problem as he’s a good player and has been a part of the squad all season so he will just slot straight in. He knows the team, and we know him so it’s an easy one for everyone.
It’s unfortunate for Briggsy, as the same thing happened to me last year after the second game and I missed the rest of the Finals. It’s not the nicest thing to go through, but you have to take into consideration the fact that it’s still the start of the season, so you don’t want to push it too much and end up missing more of that than you need to.
Briggsy is an important member of the squad though and he wants to stay out here to support the lads and we’ll support him. That says a lot about the team spirit we have here.
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