With the second round of matches completed, Sam Thompson of TTTFootball gives us the rundown of what happened in the latest fixtures at the 2013 Under 21 European Championships in Israel.
England U21s 1 Norway U21s 3
England made a total of five changes to the side that lost 1-0 against Italy in their opening group game, with Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Ince and Nathaniel Chalobah amongst those brought into the XI.
Given the hot playing conditions, possession was key, and England did a superb job of keeping the ball, ending the first half with 74% of the ball. However, what they did with the ball caused little worry to a disciplined Norway side happy to sit very deep and strike on the counter.
Jordan Henderson started as the most advanced central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation but his movement was too deep and often resulted in Zaha struggling to hold the ball up on his own. On the wings, Redmond looked lively again but Ince down the right was very isolated and didn’t see enough of the ball. England’s best spell was the first 15 minutes where they had three of four half chances, but after that, they struggled to breach the Norwegian defence.
A lack of cutting edge was coupled with some shocking defending and the results were embarrassing. Norway took the lead against the run of play after England failed to clear a corner and, not for the first time this tournament, goalkeeper Jack Butland can take a large portion of the blame.
Jo Inge Berget added a second with a stunning half-volley after yet more bad England defending and the lead was further extended shortly after half-time, after good work from Marcus Pedersen down the right to tee up Magnus Eikrem who rifled in his effort.
England pulled a goal back through a Craig Dawson penalty but there was no hope of a comeback with Norway happy to protect their lead and England lacking any genuine belief. The result means that England go out of the tournament with a game still to play and serious questions must be asked of why Stuart Pearce’s side failed to perform.
Man of the Match: Jo Inge Berget – Norway’s winger was a constant thorn in England’s side and also got on the score sheet with his side’s second goal of the game.
Italy U21s 4 Israel U21s 0
Italy showed their class in this Group A encounter as they ran riot against the tournament’s hosts, Israel. The Italians took the lead early with a fantastically well worked move ending in some excellent combination play on the edge of the area. Lorenzo Insigne’s cross-field pass was knocked down by Ciro Immobile into the path of Riccardo Saponara, starting in place of the injured Luca Marrone who will miss the rest of the tournament. Saponara demonstrated great technique in guiding the ball on the half volley past Israel’s goalkeeper Boris Kleiman.
Italy’s only other change was Manolo Gabbiadini in for Fabio Borini up front and the Bologna striker netted twice, either side of half time. By this time though Israel were down to 10-men after midfielder Eyal Golasa was sent off for a reckless tackle. Alessandro Florenzi completed the scoring on 71 minutes, ensuring that Italy maintain their 100% record and progress into the semi-finals.
It is hoped that Insigne, one of Italy’s best performers so far, will be fit for selection come the semi-finals after he was stretched off in tears as a result of that Golasa tackle.. The Napoli winger was taken to hospital but is believed to have severe bruising to his left shin, as opposed to a fracture, but he will not be available for the Italians group game with Norway.
That game will no doubt be Italy’s biggest test so far having seen off both England and Israel with relative ease, and the Azzurri will want to make sure that they at least get a draw in their last match, to be assured of top spot in the group and a supposedly easier opponent in the final four.
Man of the Match: Manolo Gabbiadini – The Italy striker made the most of starting this match by scoring two of his sides goals on the night and he led the line superbly.
Netherlands U21s 5 Russia U21s 1
Russia changed their shape from the first group game against Spain, in order to incorporate the attacking talent of Alan Dzagoev. They sat deep and looked to counter through their playmaker, but his impact on the game was limited thanks to the sterling marking of Marco Van Ginkel. The central midfielder stuck tight to the Russian, allowing Kevin Strootman to play a more attacking role than the one he had against Germany.
Adam Maher, who was superb in that victory over Germany, was much quieter today, the result of yet more excellent marking in the midfield zone – this time from Russia’s Ibrahim Tsallagov, who had also done an excellent job of marking Isco out of the first half in his first group game.
The Dutch were always the dominant side in this match and their patient build-up play was rewarded just before half time after Georgino Wijnaldum tried his luck from range to open the scoring on 38 minutes with a wonderful strike.
On 50 minutes Russia were reduced to 10-men after Nikita Chicherin was sent off for a bad tackle on Maher and Luuk De Jong scored a header soon after, following a clever dinked cross from Van Ginkel. Russia surprisingly pulled a goal back after Dzagoev saw his header hit the post but the rebound fall to Denis Cheryshev, who finished calmly.
Any chances of a Russian comeback were killed off just minutes later after Ola John, the best player in an Orange shirt, scored a well-deserved goal with a delicate chip over the Russian goalkeeper, Nikolay Zabolotny. Substitute Danny Hoesen added a fourth with a similar finish and then Leroy Fer, also off the bench, completed the rout in added time.
Man of the Match: – Ola John – the Benfica winger caused the majority of Russia’ problems at the back and took his goal superbly with a delicate dink over the keeper.
Germany U21s 0 Spain U21s 1
Koke was brought into midfield from the side that left it late to beat Russia in their last match, meaning Thiago had more creative licence further up the pitch and Isco started from the left wing. The match had quite a slow start with Spain seeing more of the ball, as expected, and trying to make the pitch as big as possible by pushing both their full backs forward.
The Germans did a good job of restricting Spain initially, forcing their opponents into several shots from distance, as neither side managed to win the midfield battle.
Germany’s Lewis Holtby played much deeper than he did against the Netherlands, turning Germany into a 4-5-1. This meant Spain had an extra body to pass through and made Germany even more compact and harder to break down – Spain came closest on 23 minutes when Thiago curled an effort against the post.
Just after the hour mark, with Germany starting to fatigue, Spain looked their most dangerous. Alvaro Morata replaced the ineffectual Rodrigo up top, but Spain’s biggest threat was still Isco on the wing, who caused all sorts of problems when he ran at the German defence.
Germany replaced midfielder Sebastian Rudy with centre back Antonio Rudiger on 82 minutes, meaning the central defensive partnership of Matthias Ginter and Stefan Thesker was broken up. This proved to be crucial as Morata ran down the left before beating substitute Rudiger and scoring past goalkeeper Bernd Leno at the near post.
With Rodrigo again failing to find the target and substitute Morata now twice coming off the bench to score, the Real Madrid man has a strong case to start the next game. The result means Spain still have a 100% record and qualify for the next round, and in the process knock Germany out of the competition.
Man of the Match: Isco – starting from the left wing, Isco’s direct attacking committed German defenders and caused them many problems, in a team performance that lacked vertical running at times.
Israel U21s v England U21s Tuesday 11th June 5pm
Norway U21s v Italy U21s Tuesday 11th June 5pm
Spain U21s v Netherlands U21s Wednesday 12th June 5pm
Russia U21s v Germany U21s Wednesday 12th June 5pm
You can follow Sam on Twitter: @TTTFootball