Euro dream over for England
Tuesday, 27 July, 2010
Young Lions miss out on the Final at the expense of an impressive Spain.
Nicholas Veevers in Saint-Lo
UEFA European U19 Championships
England’s European Championship dreams were brought to an end in Saint-Lo on Tuesday afternoon, when an impressive Spanish team secured their place in Friday’s Final where they will no doubt be hoping to follow their senior team’s recent victory in the World Cup with a European honour at U19 level too.
For Noel Blake’s squad, they can still make the short trip back home from Normandy with pride after not only reaching the last four in Europe but also securing a place in next year’s U20 World Cup in Colombia whilst this victory for Spain will go some way to gaining revenge for their defeat to England in the Final of the U17 Euros in May.
It was a fluent performance throughout from Luis Milla’s team, with their athletic, incisive and quick passing game both effective and pleasing on the eye and they will certainly prove a tough team to beat in the Final in Caen after winning all four of their games in northern France.
England will certainly learn from the experience of facing them and for stages of the game, they proved more than a match and created numerous chances which could’ve seen a different outcome on another day.
In fact, England almost had the perfect start within a minute of the kick-off, when Nathan Delfouneso made inroads on the left to skip past Martin Montoya. His centre was met by the head of Jacob Mellis but goalkeeper Alex made a super stop to turn the ball narrowly wide for a corner.
At the other end, Declan Rudd was forced into his first save of the afternoon in the sixth minute when Real Madrid new boy Sergio Canales tried his luck with a low left footer from just outside the area but the England stopper was well placed to make a straightforward save.
Rudd then had to make a better stop a minute later when England squandered possession in a dangerous area on the right and Keko was swiftly played into the area. He placed a firm shot at goal but Rudd did well to turn it away at the expense of a corner, which Rodrigo headed over from close range.
Spain had been the sharper of the two teams since that early chance for England and it was no real surprise when they took the lead in the 12th minute. Again the ball was worked quickly out to the right and when Keko pulled a cross back to the far side of the area, Daniel Pacheco was in space and he drilled an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
The Young Lions were then forced into an early change, when Nathan Baker fell awkwardly following a challenge with Keko and he was promptly replaced by John Bostock, with Thomas Cruise reverting to left-back.
There was a half chance for England in the 19th minute when Frank Nouble did well to beat Carles Planes down the right. His centre picked out Ryan Donaldson in the middle, but his shot was well blocked by Jorge Pulido from close range.
England had another opportunity in the 29th minute, when Montoya was forced into clearing off the line to deny Nouble. The chance came when Matthew James played a quick ball into space and when Alex came racing from his line, Nouble knocked the ball past him. It was rolling towards goal, with Delfouneso in hot pursuit, but Montoya was back first to clear the danger.
Five minutes later and it was 2-0 and again, England were undone by some fantastic play from the Spanish. The move started and ended with captain Keko, who burst into the box after collecting a back-heel from Canales, before biding his time in the area and slipping a shot past Rudd and into the goal.
But England hit straight back and in the 37th minute they matched Spain with a goal of equal quality. Cruise dinked a ball into the area for Delfouneso and when his flick on for Donaldson was only half cleared, Bostock was onto it in a flash to strike a fine volley past Alex and into the bottom corner from outside the box.
The goal certainly gave England a boost going into half-time and whilst Spain had undoubtedly been the better team, with only one goal in it, there always remained a chance going into the second half.
Whilst England made a brighter start to the second half too, with Nouble narrowly beaten to a Bostock cut back, but Spain really should’ve added a third in the 53rd minute when Keko’s cross from the right picked out Rodrigo in front of goal. He somehow contrived to knock it wide from close range and England breathed on.
Three minutes later and they had their third though, through a clever free-kick routine. With three players standing over the ball 25 yards from goal, Oriol Romeu shaped to shoot before neatly lifting a deft pass over the wall for Canales, who had cleverly spun away from the defenders and into the space behind. He was through on goal, and the Real Madrid starlet made no mistake by slotting home from eight yards out.
England weren’t finished though and Donaldson was inches away from getting on the end of Nouble’s cross from the left, but it was just in front of him and he could only guide it wide of the post at full stretch.
In the later stages, substitute Matt Phillips made an impression on the right and produced a couple of good crosses but the defensive partnership of Pulido and Marc Bartra remained strong and dealt with anything thrown at them.
It was a cruel way to end what has been another good season at U19 level for England but the players involved will certainly head back to their parent clubs all the better for the European competition experience they've enjoyed over the campaign.