Guest contributor Richard Smith takes a look at the recently concluded Under 21 tournament, where at least we drew with the eventual winners…even if we didn’t qualify for the semi finals because we forgot a game lasts at least 90 minutes.
If manager Stuart Pearce achieved one thing at the Euro Under-21 Championships in Denmark, it was to mentally prepare the players for future disappointments for when they represent their country at senior level.
The England Under-21 team’s humiliating exit from a tournament for which they were the second favourites to win was borne out of the usual reasons and excuses more commonly associated with their senior counterparts. Lack of ideas, inability to keep the ball, insistence on playing the long ball and worst of all, their inability to create clear cut scoring opportunities. In 270 minutes of football at the tournament, they managed to score just two goals!
To be fair it has to be said that England was the better team in their final match against the Czech Republic. They were winning 1-0 with just stoppage time left to play…
Had the score remained 1-0, the headlines would have read completely differently of course. Pearce would have received the plaudits, the players would have been branded “battlers” and more importantly, they would have had every chance of making the final.
Instead in those dying seconds, a Czech Republic attack took full advantage of Englandâ€™s defensive frailties. They scored somewhat fortuitously with a toe poke in the 89th minute before wrapping things up with a second goal in injury time.
Two lacklustre draws and a defeat from their three games meant only third place in their group and ignominy. Admittedly, the England group was the harder of the two, but the side should have had enough talent to qualify to the semi finals, two of which have just completed transfers amassing Â£38 million!
Was there anything in those three matches for England fans to get excited over for the future?
The truthful answer is no, compared to the technical ability of eventual winners, Spain, England are some way behind achieving success at an international tournament. Performances from the likesÂ of Mata, Herrera, Montoya and Adrian in the Spanish side raise questions about what on earth Man Utd and Liverpool are getting for their huge investments in the bright young stars of English football? Whether it’s a case of talent or manager in charge, something continues to be sadly amiss with the England national teams.
As far as Pearce is concerned, the poor showing will not be rewarded with the sack. The FA have punished him instead by giving him the onerous task of guiding the team through the 2013 Euro Under-21 qualification, a quest he obviously felt he could not refuse. What it does however, is rule him out of the search for the next England manager when Capello steps down at thhe end of his current contract, be it in the Autumn, should (god forbid) England fail to qualify for Euro 2012 or in 12 months.