Reds duo help England to winning start
Posted by nickogs20 on July 20, 2010
Reece Brown and Matt James were both involved as England began their UEFA U19 European Championship campaign with a close-fought 3-2 win over Austria.
Young Lions coach Noel Blake handed both United players starting roles at the Stade du Hazé in Flers, with James captaining the side in his second Euro U19 finals. Despite a shaky start, England raced into an early 2-0 lead, West Ham’s Frank Nouble capitalising on defensive lapses to produce two fine finishes, his first goals for his country. Tottenham’s Dean Parrett then rattled the crossbar with a freekick before Austria’s star man, David Alaba of Bayern Munich, did likewise at the other end.
England looked relatively comfortable going into the break two ahead but they were rocked as their opponents started the second half stronger and the gifted Alaba produced an even better dead-ball effort to halve his side’s deficit. Arsenal’s Thomas Cruise quickly restored the two-goal cushion with a scrappy effort from a corner, but the Austrians rallied again and Gernot Trauner’s arrowing low drive set up a tense finish during which England keeper Declan Rudd was called upon to make some crucial saves.
As Blake acknowledged after the game, the result was the most important thing but the performance left something to be desired and will have to be improved upon if England are to make an impression at this tournament. Austria outpassed the Young Lions at times and looked the better team technically, and while they perhaps lacked the organisation and defensive nous to turn that into a result, the likes of France and Spain are unlikely to have such problems should England fall short again. In fairness to Blake and his youngsters, the failure of the senior national side in South Africa and concerns over the future of English football has thrust this set of players firmly into a media spotlight to which they are entirely unaccustomed, and at times that seemed evident in a nervy display.
From a United perspective, Brown had a tidy enough game at right-back and justified the decision to select him ahead of the highly-rated Nathaniel Clyne, but the usually influential James was surprisingly quiet, perhaps hampered by an extremely narrow midfield which at times seemed to feature four central players. To get the best out of him – and as one of the squad’s best talents you’d think that would be an aim – Blake may have to have something of a rethink regarding that crowded engine room. While on the subject of James, you can read his latest blog from the England camp here.
Next up for England in Group A are the Netherlands, who will be smarting after a 4-1 mauling at the hands of a France side who look to be as entertaining on the field as their senior counterparts were off it at the World Cup. The Dutch defence showed signs of weakness, particularly against pace, a promising sign for England and their rapid Delfouneso/Nouble strikeforce. If Blake’s side can exploit that, tighten up at the back and shake off their nerves, they will have a great chance to all but confirm their place in the semi-finals. The game takes place tomorrow at the Stade Henry-Jeanne in Bayeux, with kick-off at 6pm CET (5pm BST).
In the tournament’s other group, opening day went very much the way of the Iberian peninsula, Spain and Portugal emerging with wins over Croatia and Italy respectively. The hotly-tipped Spanish had to come from behind and were frustrated for long periods by young Chelsea ‘keeper Matej Delač, while things were much more straightforward for the Portuguese, for whom former Reds striker Evandro Brandão made a late cameo. Tomorrow sees the top two face off in Saint-Lo, with Croatia and Italy fighting to stay in the competition in Mondeville.
Eurosport UK have live coverage of Spain-Portugal and England-Netherlands tomorrow, while you can keep up to date with all the tournament news on UEFA.com. For everything England-related keep an eye on the FA’s website, while we’ll of course have all MUFC angles covered here on the blog and on Twitter.