England’s U21 European Championship campaign bites the dust against ice cold Norway.
Stuart Pearce rang the changes in an attempt to invigorate the play and find the cutting edge that they severely lacked against Italy in their last game; Adam Smith replaced Nathaniel Clyne, Nathaniel Chalobah partnered Jason Lowe in front of the back four and Jordan Henderson moved to the centre of a midfield three with Nathan Redmond on the left and the returning Tom Ince on the right. Wilfried Zaha played up front, replacing Connor Wickham.
England (4-2-3-1): Butland, Smith, Caulkner, Dawson, Rose, Chalobah, Lowe, Ince, Henderson (C), Redmond, Zaha.
Subs Used: Wickham, Shelvey, Wisdom
Norway (4-3-3): Nyland, Elabdellaoui, Rogne, Semb Berge, Strandberg (C), Singh, Johansen, Eikrem, Berget, Pedersen, Nielsen.
Subs Used: Ibrahim, Nordtveit, Linnes
The opening gave the impression that it was all going to go England’s way, they had time, space and pace through Danny Rose, the left back looked lively and along with Tom Ince he tried to put England ahead with early shots. Tom Ince then won a free kick, Henderson took it and Rose saw his header go over the bar.
England knew they had to push forward and it looked only a matter of time before they scored, so when it was Norway that made the breakthrough it is fair to say it was against the run of play. Jack Butland came for a corner and flapped, Norway kept the pressure on and England could not clear their lines, it was headed back into the area for Fredrik Semb Berge to swivel and score on fifteen minutes.
As the half went on the inventive, purposeful forward play from players like Rose looked like it would work against England as it gave Norway more space to exploit and they soon showed they were ruthless when given the chance.
Just after the half hour Norway were two up, Håvard Nielsen flicked it the ball over for Jo Inge Berget to chest the ball down and finish well despite the attentions of Steven Caulker. England did have the ball in the back of the net but it was disallowed again, Steven Caulker’s header the latest to be chalked off by the officials.
In the second half, as in the previous game, England made a good start; Connor Wickham was brought on for Lowe, Wilfried Zaha would spend more time on the wing as everything went a bit 4-4-2. Jordan Henderson brought a save from Nyland, soon after Danny Rose crossed but Connor Wickham could not get a shot away. Within two minutes Norway would show them the meaning of the word clinical; Norway attacked down the right through Marcus Pedersen, leaving Dawson for dead and cutting back for Magnus Eikrem to smash it past Jack Butland – the cross bar is probably still shaking.
England finally scored a goal but not from open play, Semb Berge had two arms on Craig Dawson as he went for the ball, a penalty was given and Dawson stepped up score but the comeback never looked possible. Jordan Henderson ‘anticipated contact’ on the edge of the area, was subsequently given a yellow card and the England effort disintegrated into a mess of long balls rash tackles and desperation.
The final whistle ended England’s campaign, but the debates about team selections and the problem with English football is only just beginning you fear.
The cold analysis is not difficult, England came with high hopes and some high profile players who failed to make any real impact when it mattered. In both matches England have been put to the sword by teams with more organisation and purpose who knew how to collectively get the job done.
Man Of The Match:
Eikrem – The midfielder was the engine of everything good for Norway, was effective at stopping England when they managed any spark and was not a letdown in attack either.