Captain Matt James blogs on how the U19s will get progressively better with games.
Looking back on the game from Sunday, I thought in the first half, we were a little nervous to start with but it was everyone’s first 90 minutes so it’s always good to get that out of the way. We went 2-0 up and whilst they had a couple of chances, I thought we were the better side in the first half.
In the second half, we dropped off the pace a little bit and made a few errors. It’s our first pre-season game and we didn’t press the ball as we should and they got back into it. Their lad scored a great free-kick to make it 2-1, and their second goal was a great strike too to make it 3-2. We held on for the three points though, so it’s a winning start and we’re pleased with that.
I remember last year in Ukraine we drew the first two matches, so we were going into the last group game needing to win, which we did. Now we’ve got three points in the bag already here and if we can get another win against Holland on Wednesday, then we’re pretty much in the semi-final. But we just want to focus on an improved all-round performance and hopefully we can get the win.
We played against the Dutch earlier in the year in a friendly over there and drew 1-1. I missed that game, but we know how they will play and after losing their first game by 4-1 to France on Sunday, they’re obviously bottom of the group on goal difference at the minute.
They won’t want to stay there, so they’ll come out and attack us on Wednesday and there’s perhaps more pressure on them as we already have three points and they really need three points or they’re pretty much out of the tournament.
So we’ll just go out there, and play our game and hopefully we can get a couple of goals and win the match.
I still feel we can only get stronger as the competition progresses and that’s how tournament football works. Now we’ve got the cobwebs out of the way, we can work on the next game and another 90 minutes.
In a tournament, you can only get stronger and just look at Spain in the World Cup for example, where they lost their first game and from there, if you’ve got the right mentality and team spirit, you can go on and win the tournament.
Since we’ve been here, we’ve had a couple of meetings with UEFA about certain things, such as the referees last Friday and then earlier today we had a presentation about doping and then match-fixing. It’s always good and interesting to hear these things, such as how to deal with referees and what their mindset on the game is. The doping control is also really important and we need to know what we’re taking in medication and food supplements and so on, as the last thing you want is to be getting banned. It was the first time I’ve heard about the match fixing stuff from UEFA and it opens your eyes a little bit so you’ve just got to be a bit careful. There was talk about footballers having their families threatened and stuff like that, so it’s quite scary stuff really.
Around the hotel, the lads are still are enjoying it and it makes a difference with all four teams in the same complex. You just have to make sure you keep your mouth shut about the starting eleven and things like that! But quite a few of the lads in our squad know a few of the opposition players from club football and we see each other all the time, at dinner or in the recreation area.
There’s a couple of players in the French squad who play in England with the Arsenal and Chelsea boys, one of the Austrians plays for Aston Villa and I think one of the Dutch lads plays at Arsenal too.
So there’s a good atmosphere around the place, but I think everyone is focused on the game in hand now and hopefully we’ll be looking forward to a semi-final spot come Wednesday night.
Thanks for reading.