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Norway deserved FIFA U20 World Cup spot, says England boss Paul Simpson

Thursday 26 Jul 2018
Paul Simpson led England to FIFA U20 World Cup glory in 2017

Head coach Paul Simpson was magnanimous in defeat after a 3-0 loss to Norway cost England a place at next summer’s FIFA U20 World Cup.

The Young Lions finished third in their Euro finals group, behind Ukraine and France, which forced them into a Poland 2019 play-off with Pal Arne Johansen’s side.

The match was goalless until deep into the second half until the Scandinavians scored three times in the final 15 minutes.

Norway 3-0 England
  • FIFA U20 World Cup
  • Play-Off
  • Thursday 26 July 2018
  • Seinajoki, Finland
Simpson said: "I think we have to be honest; on the day, we were second best and Norway fully deserved their victory.

"We are very, very disappointed because we didn’t do enough to get a result out of the game.

"They were physically stronger and a little bit more robust and battle-hardened than our players. They found a way to win the game.

"We go away very, very disappointed that we don’t have an opportunity to go and retain the World Cup that we won in South Korea last year.

"But we’ll dust ourselves down and learn from it."

England, who won the U19 Euros in Georgia last summer, opened this year’s finals with a 3-2 win over Turkey.

This was followed by a 1-1 draw with Ukraine before a 5-0 defeat by France on Monday ended their hopes of a semi-final spot.

On the eve of the tournament, Simpson said he wanted to bring a strong squad to Finland to give his side every chance of retaining the trophy.

But the scheduling of the finals meant some players were asked to stay with their club sides for pre-season.

Norway forward Erik Botheim broke the deadlock against England

Simpson added: "This is a new group of players that we’ve had to try and put together in a really short space of time.

"We had five or six days to prepare for this tournament and that’s not ideal. But it’s just the nature of the timing of the tournament. We had a short period of time and we were bringing players in who have never played international football before.

"The only thing I would have wanted was a strong squad which we’ve had all season.

"Unfortunately with the finals being played [outside the] international window, and at the start of pre-season, we missed the opportunity of having our first choice squad. I would have liked that but I can’t do anything about it."

However, the former Preston North End and Shrewsbury Town boss had nothing but praise for the 20 players who travelled to Finland.

He said: "The players who have been with us have given everything they possibly could. They have been absolutely outstanding in the way they have worked and the way they have tried to learn.

"I am immensely proud of them. They worked their socks off and I couldn’t have asked for any more.

"We know the players have had a fantastic experience of being involved in this tournament, it’s just disappointing that our opportunity to go to Poland next year has gone.

"In terms of work and in terms of fight, they have given everything they’ve got. Unfortunately we just weren’t at the level we needed to be for this level of competition."

By Glenn Lavery