Semi-Finals for England
Monday, 09 July, 2012
Goals from Lundstram and Kane seal win over France to head into last four of the Euros.
By Nicholas Veevers in Tallinn
England U19s took their place in the semi-final of the European Championship after a hard-fought victory against France in Tallinn to take top spot in Group B.
Goals in the first half from John Lundstram and Harry Kane were enough to secure the result but the Young Lions had to show real resolve in the second half as a powerful and physical French team desperately chased an equaliser, ultimately to no avail.
It was a disciplined and solid performance from Noel Blake’s side though, as they executed the Head Coach's plan perfectly to frustrate France and really give them little to feed off in their search for goals.
The Young Lions will now take on Greece in the semi-final in Tallinn on Thursday, whilst France will find a Spanish team with three wins from three in Group A as their opposition.
England started out with a solid formation, before switching as planned after 15 minutes and that resulted in the opening goal. It was somewhat against the run of play though, as Sam Johnstone saved Kevin Mayi’s shot before rolling the ball quickly out and the Young Lions quickly progressed upfield. The ball fell to Lundstram on the edge of the area, and the Everton man took a touch and then struck low into the bottom corner past Jonathan Millieras.
England almost had a second goal moments after that, when George Thorne hit a howitzer from 25 yards which Millieras could only half save before collecting at the second attempt.
The French ‘keeper was forced into an even better stop after 20 minutes, when Kane’s free-kick looked destined for the top corner until Millieras got a hand to it and turned the ball behind for a corner.
Sensing the uncertainty around Millieras’ handling capabilities, Saido Berahino tried his luck with a low shot from the edge of the area and again it took the Frenchman two attempts to collect.
France were nearly gifted an equaliser in the 26th minute though, as England’s passing across the back line saw Johnstone’s ball towards Eric Dier intercepted by Axel N’Gando. He only had to roll the ball back at goal but saw his side-footer scrape the edge of the post and bounce wide, which was a real let-off for England.
They were level just after the half-hour mark though, as Geoffrey Kondogbia out-muscled Thorne on the left before feeding Jerome Phojo. His centre was knocked down and picked up by Jordan Veretout, who crashed a low shot with his left-foot past Johnstone.
England were still giving France plenty to think about at the other end, with one flowing move in the 38th minute seeing Nathan Redmond, Lundstram and Kane link-up to move the ball across the park before Nat Chalobah’s cross from the right was inches away from picking out Robert Hall at the far post.
A minute later and England had the lead again, as Hall’s corner from the right was punched out by Millieras as far as Kane, who struck a sweet volley from 12 yards back into the bottom corner to give England a half-time advantage.
England twice came close to extending their lead in the opening exchanges of the second half, firstly when Kane’s close range shot was blocked following Jack Robinson’s weighted free-kick into the area and then Redmond stung the hands of Millieras, who did well to tip the ball over the bar.
France were growing more and more anxious for a way back into the game and undoubtedly had the greater possession from this point onwards, albeit mainly in their half and the midfield, as they tried to break down a disciplined and well-versed England team.
However, going into the final ten minutes, Johnstone had rarely been troubled with France’s main threat coming from the flanks and no-one seemingly willing to attack the crosses. When they did finally break through the middle, sub Jean-Chris Baheback fluffed his lines in front of goal and Thorpe cleared again.
From the resulting corner, England were caught out as it was played low to Veretout just inside the area and when his low shot was diverted towards goal, a combination of Eric Dier and Thorpe cleared off the line.
That proved to be the last of their opportunities as England comfortably dealt with what they had to offer to leap-frog France into the coveted top spot in Group B.
Now it's onto the semi-final...