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Shortsighted England Stumble to 1-1 Draw in European u21 Championship

uefa u21 european championship1 Shortsighted England Stumble to 1 1 Draw in European u21 ChampionshipA barely populated stadium in Denmark played host to England’s opening group game of the 2011 U21 European Championship Sunday night. A difficult test awaited the players, pitted against tournament favorites Spain who, like England, boasted an impressive array of their domestic leagues young talent.

The Spanish youngsters, much like their senior side, looked well drilled and used the space effectively. Quick interchanges gained fluidity and were a joy to watch as the game wore on.

Both goals in the 1-1 match had a degree of controversy. A handball for the Spanish and an offside for the English meant one point for both sides. It was however far from an even contest.

It’s at this point I note my first grievance with England at youth level. Spain have a very clear tactic and mantra, I can see what they are trying to do in their play. By exploiting the flanks and playing the newly coined Barcelona 4-3-3, they use a holding midfielder to take the ball from the back and distribute. In the early stages Stuart Pearce’s men looked to match their Spanish opposition with quick short passes but Michael Mancienne and Jordan Henderson were consistently overrun.

Before too long the dreaded long ball from the England defence made an appearance. It was the same long ball John Terry can be seen to play for the senior side and it has the same, minimal effect. The ball would often fall into space to be swept up by the composed Spanish centre backs with neither Danny Wellbeck or Daniel Sturridge the physically imposing target man this kind of tactic requires.

In the first half the main attacking outlet for England came through Kyle Walker. His blistering pace caused occasional problems for the Spanish left side but it was the bright spot of a poor first half. He continued in the same vein throughout the second half squaring it inside for Danny Wellbeck to apply the finish.

A draw was not in truth a deserved result with Spain wasting a number of chances. England didn’t even appear set up correctly to deal with Spain’s tactics. Pearce’s selection process is also a cause for debate. Michael Mancienne, a defender operating in midfield with Jack Rodwell warming the bench, was a puzzling decision to say the least.

However my biggest selection issue comes with the inclusion of Danny Rose. In what’s becoming a recurring theme when he takes the pitch, the commentator inevitably mentions his infamous strike against Arsenal. Rose is fast becoming this generation’s Ronnie Radford.

His performance was erratic and best summed up by a wild shot in the first half that looked more like a clearance than an attempt at goal. He would make way for Henri Lansbury with Pearce’s final substitution being Swansea City’s Scott Sinclair — both of whom joined the squad on the back of impressive seasons in England’s second tier.

Yet surprisingly neither is deemed worthy of the starting XI. This is where Pearce begins to garner more criticism. The team selection seems to lack any thought to the opponent or with a composition in mind. A team is not selected merely an eleven all wearing the same shirt. A fairly flat and lifeless 4-4-2 with players just pushed in.

The general consensus in the English media seems to be that the tournament serves little purpose other than giving youngsters games at international level. Ergo why Andy Carroll and Jack Wilshere, both of whom are on the fringes of Fabio Capello’s side, were granted a pardon, citing ‘potential burnout’ as an explanation.

However looking back at 2009 the final between Germany and England makes for interesting analysis. Mesut Özil, Jérôme Boateng, Sami Khedira, Denis Aogo, and Manuel Neuer all played that evening as Germany’s U21’s dismantled England 4-0. That same quartet also lined up a mere 12 months later against England’s senior side in South Africa with a similar score-line being the end result.

Familiarity is what breeds a well gelled side. England should be using this tournament with next summer’s European Championships and the 2014 World Cup in mind. A core group should be ushered together as a unit for Capello’s side being the ultimate goal. Allowing players like Carroll and Wilshere breaks from international football can be a dangerous game.

David Bentley was praised in some quarters for removing himself from the 2009 tournament. His impact for club and country has since been minimal at best. While I’m not cynical enough to befit the same fate to Carroll and Wilshere, I believe that if a chance to gain tournament experience arises youngsters should take it.

After all, one of the stars of Sunday night Juan Manuel Mata — a player Sky drooled over with envy in their pre match build up — is in fact a World Cup winner along with Javi Martinez. Diego Capel, and Bojan Krki? have also made their senior debut yet Spain use this tournament to gel those players with the next generation such as Thiago Alcântara, César Azpilicueta and Iker Munian.

There is a lazy argument that the tournament has no bearing on senior football because it birthed one month wonders such as Royston Drenthe and Maceo Reigters. The latter of whom was turned down by Southend in 2009 . However it can’t be ignored that both Germany and even world champions Spain have used this tournament to forge their international future. Time will tell if England start to realize and adopt the same philosophy.

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11 Responses to Shortsighted England Stumble to 1-1 Draw in European u21 Championship

  1. ManUforlife says:

    I really thought it was amazing how similar these teams played compared to their senior squads. The Spanish team played possession, fluid passing football throughout the entire game and almost took the life out of it. England meanwhile basically played in spurts just like how they always do. Instead of building an attack, they always try to go for the one incisive pass. It’s a lazy, uninspired style of football. I was happy to see Welbeck score (I don’t think he was offsides) because England did wake up towards the end. The Spain team got too lax at the end of the game and didn’t kill it off which looks like something that they’ll improve on over time. I like this England squad but we need better tactics and ways to attack and control the game.

  2. pete says:

    I find it strange that people want to have a pop at England when teams like Germany and Holland didn’t even qualify for this tournament. Yes England didn’t look that good but you have to remember they are playing Spain who are the fav’s for this tourny and the best team in it. Pearce’s selection is also poor. Rose and Mancienne are crap and he continues to play them. Probably the 3 best known u 21′s in England aren’t even playing in this tourny. Wilshire (Arsenal) Carrol (liverpool) and Gibbs (Arsenal) all missing. I could even throw in Micah Richards (city) who could have played in this tourney.
    There is no doubt that if those players were there and we had someone better than Pearce in charge they would be playing better and doing better. Still, a draw againt the best team in the tourney is not to be sniffed at, it is certainly better than not even qualifying like France, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Portugal failed to do.

  3. Kris Heneage says:

    That’s just it though Pete. I’m not questioning the side in terms of the result. England have an impressive array of individuals, but individuals don’t win competitions.

    Even Maradonna needed 10 men beside him to win the 86 World Cup. These tournaments should be seen as training grounds for a nations future, not just a Summer jaunt for youngsters.

  4. dominjon says:

    Pearce played 4-4-2 (forget claims of 4-2-3-1, that was 4-4-2). He played a defender in mdifeld as part of that 2 man CM and had a keeper who kicked long and erratic. Even worse it seemed Henderson had been instructed to drop deep as the more defensive of the 2, with the natural defender more inclined to get forward.
    England should have been beaten 3 or 4 nil, they were very lucky to get a draw.

  5. pete says:

    No I don’t see your point apart from to have a pop at an England side and its players. Spain played the same as their senior side do, they do have lots of possession are good on the ball but they didn’t make the goalkeeper work that much. The goal they scored was handball and should not have counted, they roll around on the floor when touched. Basically a bunch of cheating divers just like their senior side. I bet if you watched the u 8′s spanish side they would be the same, it’s in their DNA

  6. Gary says:

    When Capello wants his senior side to pass the ball and build slowly from the back, many question that tactic and say it’s not the English way. That England should play a fast tempo, kick and run tactics that are seen in the EPL weekly. Pierce is doing exactly that. If he were to try and change it he would be criticized.

    To some degree I agree with Pierce’s tactics because English players in general aren’t technically good enough to keep the ball the way the Spaniards do. Until the English academy system begins to produce players with technical ability to match a passing game we are not likely to see any change.

  7. Soot says:

    Danny Rose is clearly a future LB if you watched the last 5 Spurs games of the year, he held his own vs Man City and Liverpool, so I don’t think his goal against Arsenal will be a fair indication of his career.

  8. pete says:

    What is the English style? This is something you should ask yourselves. If you’re talking about the late 70′s it was a very passing style with clubs like liverpool, mid 80′s more the long ball game wimbledon style if that means anything to anyone. 90′s a bit of both, then onto modern times, what style do you class as the English style? The premier league style? You look at Chelsea, Man utd, Tottenham, Liverpool, it’s not Wimbledon style from the 80′s yet it’s not the barca style.
    I think it is a passing game, a passing game at speed. There’s nothing wrong with a long ball or a short pass, what is important is that it is the right pass whether short or long. The problem the English game has (i don’t see it as a problem though) is that it is fast and it is hard, you never get the same amount of time on the ball as you would in seria a or la liga, therefore the players don’t always seem as good on the ball as they do in other countries.
    @gary, the england senior side do play 4-3-3 now, they pass the ball a lot more now, a lot of the time it is down to the coach and the style and formation he wants to play. Cappelo used to play 4-4-2 with heskey and play long ball, that was down to him, his choice, he got smashed in the press for it and since the world cup has played mainly 4-3-3 to stop the english public from ripping his head off, the players can play that way but it is down to who the coach picks and the style he wants them to play

  9. Tony says:

    Yes they passed the ball around but in all honesty that’s all they did .. back and forth it was probably one of the most boring games i have seen.. I completely lost interest. they where putting me to sleep.. all they do is play keep away . tell me how many clear cut chances did they have on goal?
    its great to say they have this fluid ball play but it really makes the game dull..
    in fact so much i think they all fell asleep that’s how England scored..

  10. Gaz Hunt says:

    As much as some of the media want to say that England got torn apart, Spain didn’t do much with the ball once they got near the goal. This Spanish under 21 team has a severe case of the Arsenals.

    England didn’t play great but they were able to hold out for a draw. It’s probably better than I’d expect of the senior squad right now.

  11. ish says:

    weird selection:
    walker was brilliant, rose might be a future LB but bertrand is an excellent LB already and should have been picked over him. mancienne shouldnt be on the pitch(he isnt horrible but he is at best a ball winning midfielder who needs a player beside him to distribute), honestly the game needed wilshire who would have played deeper and made a more rounded team.
    not the first time poor selections cost england, the u19s also have shit players that regularly get picked.

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