With less than 18 hours since the final whistle blew on their first group match, a 5-1 win over Iceland, Dan Micciche’s youngsters enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked the cutting edge to gain the victory against a resilient Finnish side.
The game had a subdued start, with England sitting off and allowing Finland plenty of the ball, and the few attacking opportunities they created themselves from set-pieces were squandered inside opening ten minutes.
Finland 1-1 England
Nordic U17 Tournament
Kolding Stadium, Kolding, Denmark
2pm, Tuesday 29 July, 2014
The Young Lions were trying to move the opposition around the park to create space for striker Jonathan Leko, but the West Brom player was well-marked by the bustling duo of Aapo Halme and William Lindqvist. His power and pace are a key asset in the focal point of the side’s attacking threat, but he was found offside twice during the early exchanges.
The first chance came after 14 minutes, when Sunderland’s Daniel Wright was rewarded for some excellent pressing play when he dispossessed Mikael Soisalo 30 yards from goal – but his run and shot from 25 yards was easily smothered by the goalkeeper.
Finland hit back, and they could have broken the deadlock with 17 minutes on the clock. Herbie Kane’s misplaced pass was collected by Lassi Lappalainen, who surged forward and passed to team-mate Ansu Sherrif Jr. The Finnish forward should really have scored, but was denied by a fantastic save down to his right by William Huffer.
But Huffer could do nothing to prevent the opener when it arrived on 31 minutes as Lucas Lingman produced a finish right out of the top drawer to give Finland the lead, connecting with the ball from just inside the area after an attempted clearance from a free-kick.
England hit back, and they created a good chance to equalise when Wright emerged at the end of a great move, but he pulled his effort wide past the left hand post from the right side of the area.
Finland then had the chance to double their advantage. Lappalainen raced through into the area from the left as he homed in on goal – but his strike was brilliantly saved by Huffer’s outstretched leg for a corner.
And what a vital save it would prove to be as seconds later his side were level. Kane collected the ball on half way as England broke from a corner, and the Liverpool midfielder spotted the run of his club-mate Trent Arnold down the left and found him deep inside the opposition half.
The full-back jinked inside the area before laying it back to Cantwell and the Norwich City youngster curled in an equaliser from 18 yards on his first international start.
Yan Dhanda and Marcus Edwards, both scorers in the opening victory over Iceland, replaced the goalscorer and Callum Slattery at the break and they immediately set about attacking the Finnish backline.
The creative spark that had been missing in the opening half was soon ignited as Dhanda fired in a cross that found Arnold at the back, but he skewed his right-foot drive wide as Micciche’s youngsters started the second half brightly and began to take the ascendency with some controlled possession play.
The impressive Arnold, who showed his calmness and cool head in several tight defensive situations throughout, was enjoying plenty of freedom down the right flank.
He looked dangerous all game as he joined in a number of attacking moves, and he emerged as the standout performer for his side on what turned out to be a tough afternoon.
The midway point of the half saw a number of changes by each side, and an unfortunate stoppage due to an injury to scorer Lingman, which forced him off, slowed the tempo right down.
Just after the hour mark, Edwards sprang back into action by showing inch-perfect control to collect a ball from Arnold and he spun inside a man, carried it along just inside the 18 yard line and fired narrowly wide with his left foot.
It proved to be a rare moment of excitement in the closing stages, with a number of tired legs and the red hot conditions beginning to take their toll on the encounter.
A free-kick from Kane whistled over the bar with four minutes remaining as England looked to muster a last bit of energy to snatch a winner, but it was not to be, and the match finished with a share of the spoils.
A penalty-shoot-out was held that would only be used to determine final placings in the group should teams be tied, and it was Finland who emerged as 5-3 winners.
Next up is Sweden in the final group game on Thursday at the Mosevej Stadium, kick-off 5pm. A win for England will see them qualify for the final on Saturday.
England (4-1-4-1): 13 William Huffer (Leeds United); 2 Trent Arnold (Liverpool), Reece Oxford (West Ham United), Darnell Johnson (Leicester City), 3 Vashon Neufville (West Ham United); 4 Herbie Kane (Liverpool), Daniel Wright (Sunderland); 18 Callum Slattery (Southampton), 15 Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), 7 Lucas N’Mecha (Manchester City); 9 Jonathan Leko (West Brom).
Substitutes: 8 Yan Dhanda (Liverpool) for Cantwell (40), 10 Marcus Edwards (Tottenham) for Slattery (40), 11 Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City) for N’Mecha (52), 16 Sadou Diallo (Manchester City) for Leko (59), 17 Edward Francis (Manchester City) for Neufville (69).
Subs not used: 1 Taye Ashby-Hammond (Fulham), 12 Kyle Edwards (West Brom).
Goal: Cantwell (36).
Head Coach: Dan Micciche
Finland (4-3-3): 1 Hugo Keto, 3 Aapo Halme, 4 William Lindqvist, 5 Aapo Maenpaa, 6 Kaan Kairinen (c), 7 Mikael Soisalo, 8 Omar Jama, 10 Lucas Lingman, 11 Lassi Lappalainen, 13 Saikou Ceesay, 17 Ansu Sherrif Jr.
Substitutes: 15 Mikko Jalkanen for Soisalo (40), 9 Benjamin Kallman for Sherrif Jr (47), 14 Niilo Maenpaa for Lingman (53), 16 Otto Lahikainen for Lappalainen (79).
Subs not used: 2 Kalle Salmi, 12 Felix Ferahyan, 18 Oskar Sandstrom.
Goal: Lingman (31)Head Coach: Kimmo Lipponen
Referee: Marcos DeOliveira