Narrow margins as England crash out
Thursday, 11 August, 2011
Young Lions unfortunate to miss out on Quarter Final spot.
By Nicholas Veevers in Armenia
England’s World Cup dream was brought to an end on a balmy night in Armenia, as a single goal in the second-half was enough to knock the Young Lions out at the Second Round stages of the U20 World Cup.
It’s often said that football is a game of fine margins and that was the story here as Brian Eastick’s side were so unfortunate not to take the game to extra-time or even win it, after creating a host of opportunities throughout the match.
Moments before Nigeria’s winner, they had almost edged ahead and for 25 minutes of the game after that, it was one-way traffic in England’s favour.
Eastick had warned before the game that his side would need to take their chances if they were going to progress into the Quarter Final and unfortunately they fell just short on this occasion.
The whole squad can depart South America with their heads held high though, after firstly emerging from what was dubbed a ‘group of death’ before giving a lively and previously free-scoring Nigeria team a real game throughout.
It wasn’t to be in the end, but all of the players involved here over the last fortnight will head home with an unbeatable experience under their wings for the future.
It was England who had the best chance of the opening exchanges too, when Reece Brown slid a pass through the defence for Matt Phillips in the sixth minute but his angled shot went over the bar.
Just over 20 minutes into the game and England had to make their first change, as Reece Wabara collapsed in the area with a recurrence of the hamstring injury which had troubled him in the build-up to the match. Reece Brown dropped back into defence, with James Wallace coming off the bench to fill in the midfield role he had previously occupied and England built again.
With half an hour gone, there was little between the teams and it was proving a tight game with limited opening for both sides but when Adam Smith over-lapped on the right to receive a pass from Phillips before cutting inside Terna Suswan, he appeared to be tripped by the defender and appealed for a penalty. The referee didn’t see it that way though and promptly cautioned the Spurs man harshly for what he saw as a dive.
Nigeria finished the first-half in a flurry and had their best spell of the game, but they couldn’t quite breach the England back-line and when the half-time whistle sounded it remained level.
The game burst into life five minutes after the re-start though, when Brown saw a shot from the edge of the area superbly turned wide by Nigerian ‘keeper Dami Paul.
In typical style, less than a minute later, Nigeria took the lead. Olarenwaju Kayode did well on the left to deliver a pacy cross into the centre and Edafe Egbedi was there to finish it off from close range to become the first player in the World Cup to breach the England defence.
England almost drew level within minutes though, as Callum McManaman broke away on the left and lifted a ball into the centre for Billy Knott. The Sunderland man set himself well and delivered a perfect volley at goal only to see it come crashing back off the bar before Nigeria scrambled the ball to safety.
The Young Lions continued to push for an equaliser and Paul was again equal to Phillips, catching at the second attempt to deny the winger's low shot.
Phillips was then a whisker away from connecting with McManaman’s corner, before he was then sent clear by Wallace’s slide rule pass only to shoot well over the bar with just the ‘keeper to beat.
The momentum was all with England, and it was Phillips again who brushed past two defenders and into the box but at full stretch, his left-footer went over the bar.
With time running out, substitute Josh Morris then came close as his curling free-kick from the right inched narrowly wide of the far post.
Nigeria appeared to have weathered the storm as the clock ticked down though, and could even have added a second themselves only for Jack Butland to make a fine save from Ramon Azeez’s vicious shot at goal.
That was the last of the action though, and after four minutes of added time, the Paraguayan referee brought the curtain down on this year's World Cup and England's campaign.