Our U19s insider blogs as England prepare for semi-final with Greece.
By Nicholas Veevers in Estonia
So, England’s stay in Estonia is extended by at least another three days as the U19s now turn their attentions to a semi-final clash with Greece on Thursday.
Going into Monday’s final Group B game with France, Noel Blake’s squad knew that by simply avoiding defeat against Les Bluets, they would be through to the last two regardless of what happened in the other match between Croatia and Serbia.
Whilst it seemed nail-biting at the time for pretty much everyone watching either here or at home on television, it’s only after the game that you look back at it and realise that despite France’s superior possession of the ball, particularly in the second half which was thoroughly expected by Blake’s players, there were very few goalscoring opportunities for the French team over the course of the game.
It was goalkeeper Sam Johnstone’s quietest game so far in the Finals and England had more of the clear-cut chances in the contest with French ‘keeper Jonathan Millieras the busier of the two over the course of 90 minutes making good saves from George Thorne, Harry Kane twice, Saido Berahino and Nathan Redmond to name but a few.
And the result proved to be vital in the end, as had England lost the game, then it would be Croatia staying in Tallinn for the semi-final rather than us following their 3-0 win against bitter rivals Serbia.
That game has gone now though and it's onto the semi-final we go. Both matches take place on Thursday at Estonia’s national Lillekula Stadium, also home to FC Flora Tallinn, and England kick-off in the earlier match at 4.45pm. Of course, with BST two hours behind Tallinn, that would be 2.45pm and both matches are being screened live on Eurosport.
For the players, it’s another quick turnaround before that match but having met up for the Finals just over two weeks ago now and either training or talking about football every day since, the technical and medical staff have given them a ‘shut-down’ day today, which they feel is important not only physically, but also mentally.
They can choose to do what they want in the afternoon, so whether it's a stroll into Tallinn's old town for a coffee, a browse of the shops or meeting up with family for the few players who have relatives visiting Estonia for the Finals, the freedom is there to switch off from football for a few hours.
Then it will be back to the training pitch on Wednesday to work on things ahead of the semi-final with a Greece side who recovered well from their opening game defeat to Spain to convincingly beat both Estonia and Portugal.
England know it will be a tough game and the squad have already been warned by Blake that this is likely to be the hardest match they will have faced this season.
It’s been 12 games unbeaten for the U19s so far this campaign, the challenge has been set to extend that by two more.
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