Steve Cooper pays tribute to Young Lions after France win

Tuesday 10 May 2016
England U17s boss Steve Cooper

England Under-17s boss Steve Cooper has paid tribute to his players following their 2-0 victory over France in the Euro Finals.

The Young Lions went into their second group game against Les Bluets knowing that they needed a result if they were to stand any chance of progressing to the next stage, following their opening game defeat to Sweden.

But goals from Reiss Nelson and Ben Morris saw England pick up the three points to set up a thrilling final match and group decider against Denmark on Thursday.

France 0-2 England

UEFA European U17 Championship
The Finals
Monday 9 May 2016
Karabakh Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan

"The players knew they had to win the game to stay in the tournament and I thought the attitude and commitment was absolutely first class," said Cooper from the team’s base in Baku.

"It was a tough game and France are a very good team. We had to show some of our defensive qualities today which allowed us to take some chances and help us eventually win the game. 

"It was an important game. We obviously didn’t get the result we’d have liked against Sweden although we played some very good football. 

"But we know that when two top teams play against each other you have to do both things well (defend and attack) and I thought we showed excellent defensive qualities tonight as well as taking our chances when they came tonight."

Following Friday’s reverse against the Swedes, it was back to the drawing board for Cooper and his staff as they plotted a way to beat France.

After a first-half opener from Ipswich Town’s Ben Morris, it took a penalty from Reiss Nelson and a red card for France keeper Gaetan Poussin in the early stages of the second half to swing the game in England’s favour.

And Cooper was happy to see his game plan work, meaning that a win against the table-topping Danes on Thursday will be enough to seal a quarter final berth.

"You have to give France a bit of credit tonight, they play in a very clear way with the ball," added Cooper.

"We changed a couple of things tactically after a good analysis of France in the build-up, and the way they play. 

Reiss Nelson celebrates with fellow goalscorer Ben Morris after netting in England

Reiss Nelson celebrates with fellow goalscorer Ben Morris after scoring England's second goal against France

"We had a game plan which we felt could win us the game by getting in to certain areas of the pitch which was going to allow us to create chances to score, and fortunately it’s what happened so we’re pleased the game plan worked.

"Tonight it was about that game management and knowing how to control a lead and see the game out. 

"I thought at times we could have played with the football a bit more, we know that, but as long as we continue to try the right things I believe that’s the most important thing.

"Everything the players do while they’re at this tournament will be a great experience for them and they’ll learn from it."

The result means all four teams in the group still have a chance of progressing to the next stage, so the attention and pressure on the final set of games will increase again.

The England Under-17s starting line-up to face France in the Euro Finals

The starting line-up for the U17s against France in Baku on Monday

And that’s something which Cooper and his staff are enjoying, with the coach and the players all getting their first taste of life at a competitive international tournament.

"It’s a brilliant event," admitted Cooper. 

"It’s my first one as a head coach and there’s so many twists and turns and I’m sure that will be the case in the third round of games. 

"But that’s exactly what you want young players to experience which will serve them well because they won’t always make the best decisions on the pitch, but the experiences they gain will serve them well for the future and that’s the most important thing."

By FA Staff