So Close

Posted: 21.06.07 in Blogging

You have to feel for the England Under 21 team who played last night against the Dutch Under 21 team in the European U21 Championship Semi-Final. A lot seemed stacked against them.

Firstly, the referee – though Stuart Pearce insisted that the choice of referee did not affect him at all. He was however probably mindful that the same referee presided over the England U21 v Serbia U21, which ended in a mass of yellow cards and Tom Huddlestone sent off. In that respect, the referee did not disappoint: he booked James Milner, Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble, meaning that those three plus Huddlestone would miss the next round. Secondly, injuries. Although the team were blighted by a raft of injuries, further injuries have decimated the squad. During the game, Leighton Baines, Steven Taylor and Nedum Onouha sustained injuries. Baines had been substituted at half time, Nedum Onouha limped off leaving ten-men on the field, and Taylor pushed the pain barrier to complete the match.

After conceding a desperately late goal to the Dutch having gone 1-0 ahead before half time, the team must have been already downbeat before enduring extra time. It took over three hours of play to eventually separate the sides, with an unfortunate Anton Ferdinand repeating his woe of the FA Cup Final in 2006 by missing a penalty that would ultimately end England’s hopes of progressing to the final.

None could argue that England put in a valiant performance.

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