England’s Under-21s crashed out of the European Championships last week after losing 3-1 to Italy.
Gareth Southgate’s men went into the game knowing that three points were required to secure them a place in the semi-final but two goals in two minutes from Italy’s youngsters set the tone for the evening and summed up England’s dismal campaign.
With Danny Ings returning to the starting line-up alongside Harry Kane and Jesse Lingard, England did start brightly but both Kane and Ings both saw chances saved by Italian keeper Francesco Bardi. Italy soon settled and took the lead in the 25th minute, Andre Belotti got in between England’s centre backs, sliding in to meet a pinpoint cross from Domenico Berardi.
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If England were shocked by Italy’s opener, they were stunned by a second in as many minutes.
Lorenzo Crisetig ran at the defence before finding Marco Benassi whose side-footed effort took a slight deflection off Ben Gibson and found the corner.
Jesse Lingard looked sharp at times, but Harry Kane was an isolated figure and England’s Young Lions struggled to supply passes forward to him. Italy then added a third in the 72nd minute, former Brentford and Fulham striker Marcello Trotta’s cross found Benassi who rose and headed home his second of the night and compounded England’s misery.
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Nathan Redmond grabbed a consolation in extra time with a low drive but it wasn’t enough for England who exited the tournament and finished bottom of their group, just as the senior side did in the World Cup a year to the day.
After the match England skipper and goalkeeper Jack Butland said England gave to be more “ruthless” when attacking and defending.
“It doesn’t matter how well you prepare, you have to be able to bring it when needed. There are fine margins in these tournaments and we conceded two sloppy goals in two minutes that have cost us our tournament.”
Despite England’s defeat and exit from the competition, manager Gareth Southgate insists he still wants to carry on as boss.
“I’m contracted to stay on [till 2017], I’d like to stay on. I think we’ve had some massive success stories in terms of individuals that have come through the programme.”
Southgate has confirmed there will now be an inquest into England’s disappointing tournament and noted that more needs to be done to give his youngsters first-team football.
“We need to expose our players more to this type of environment, where there is intense pressure, where they have to produce. They need more of it at club level and that would help internationally but, collectively and individually, they would have learned a lot from the last 10 days.”
After a superb qualifying campaign which saw England drop only two points, England have now failed to progress from the group stages for the third successive tournament and come under fire on social media from former players and managers.
Joey Barton tweeted: “The less said about England’s current footballing predicament the better. Just a mess from top to bottom.” Former England striker Michael Owen also tweeted his views saying: “Painful. Back to the drawing board.”