A final World Cup blog from Nicholas Veevers in Colombia as the squad head home.
England’s time in Colombia is now over and as the U20 World Cup goes into the Quarter Final stage this weekend, the Young Lions squad are already back home.
They could have been preparing to face France in Cali on Sunday had there been a little bit more fortune in front of goal against Nigeria but ultimately it wasn’t to be.
Once the final whistle had gone and England’s World Cup campaign was cut short, the considerable administrative job of getting everyone back home from South America began.
With 19 players and the staff to consider, it’s an unenviable job for Team Operations Manager Carol Day but after some frantic phone calls and logistical organisation, all of the players and a number of the staff were booked on a flight out of Bogota to Frankfurt on Thursday evening before connecting back to England, whilst the remaining folk will follow them in stages on either Friday or Saturday.
It’s an earlier departure than everyone would have liked, but as Head Coach Brian Eastick has alluded to throughout the competition, it has been an achievement for the squad to have done so well out here and finish in the last 16.
With a significant number of players unavailable to Eastick before the squad was even selected for a variety of reasons and then multiple withdrawals after the announcement, the way in which the group gelled and worked together with a steely efficiency on the pitch is a credit to all of the players.
They will all return to their clubs with an unbeatable experience under their wings and with Under-21 boss Stuart Pearce also with them throughout in Colombia as Eastick’s assistant, a number of them will have done their chances of further caps in the next level up no harm whatsoever.
All of the players and staff have thoroughly enjoyed the trip though, with Colombia being a perfect host for the tournament. With the public being football-crazy here, as well as completely friendly and welcoming in all three of the cities where we were based, the squad all admitted that the World Cup was a much bigger deal than they ever expected it to be when they landed in Medellin nearly three weeks ago.
With people in the streets happily waving at the players and stopping to chat for photos and autographs along with the interest from the local and national media in everything about the team and group, there has been a real and genuine charm about Colombia for everyone in the England camp and it will be sad to leave it behind.
It’s certainly been an experience that I’ll never forget and with the Senior World Cup taking place just over the border in Brazil in 2014, it has only whet the appetite for everybody involved.
And who knows, maybe some of these players could develop their careers further before then and be back in South America in three years. If so, they will definitely have a real insight into what to expect from what will certainly be another festival of football.
Until next time,
NickFollow me on Twitter @NVivas79