The England U21 team continued their good form against Germany last night with a 1-1 draw even though coach Stuart Pearce made 10 changes from the side that had beaten Spain 2-0 in the previous game.
Stuart Pearce – has built a very strong England U21 squad
And it seems that Stuart was happy enough with the performance of the lads, after they had gone one down after just 5 minutes in Halmstad last night.
But it was Everton’s Jack Rodwell who got them back into the game with a bullet header after 29 minutes, and in the second half England were able to keep possession and even went for the winner, as Pearce brought on Arsenal’s Theo Walcott with 30 minutes to go.
England win Group B with the result, and Germany also qualified for the semi-finals with the point, and will now play hosts Sweden, Italy, Serbia or Belarus in the semi-finals on Friday.
Newcastle’s reported target Fraizer Campbell, got a start for the U21 side last night.
22 Scott Loach, 3 Andrew Taylor, 5 Richard Stearman, 16 James Tomkins, 18 Michael Mancienne, 15 Jack Rodwell, 8 Craig Gardner, 11 Adam Johnson, 20 Andrew Driver, 23 Danny Rose, 21 Fraizer Campbell
1 Joe Hart, 13 Joe Lewis, 2 Martin Cranie, 9 Gabriel Agbonlahor, 14 Theo Walcott, 6 Nedum Onuoha, 17 Micah Richards, 19 Kieran Gibbs, 4 Lee Cattermole, 10 Mark Noble, 12 Fabrice Muamba
Joe Lewis came on in goal in the second half, and now every one of the 23 in the squad has played in the tournament – good work by Pearce, but you can only do that when you have a winning side.
And Pearce was adamant his team will fear nobody in the final four, and believes they are well placed to win the European U21 crown.
The former Newcastle full-back said after the game:
“I wouldn’t swap my squad of players for any other nations’ in Europe,” “Winning the European Championship was the plan two years ago, and nothing has changed my mind now.”
“We’ve knocked 50-dd teams out of this competition and there are only four of us left, after the final round of Group A games.”
“If we don’t focus from game to game we’ll go home, and if we give a good account of ourselves, play to the best of our ability and all the players contribute from one to 23, we’ll have half a chance.”
“We’ve got no injuries, got a good spirit among the group and we’re going to work hard to win the semi-final.”
It seems that the success in the England first team is showing through to the U21 level, as Fabio Capello’s right hand man – Pearce – seems to be improving as a coach all the time.
But this England side is so good, and so strong in depth, it will now be a little surprising if the lads don’t win the title outright this time around.
And that would be a good omen for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa, where England have to be in with a decent chance of winning the whole thing, after winning all 7 games in qualifying so far. They have scored 26 goals and only conceded 4, the best record of any team so far in Wolrd Cup qualification, anywhere!.
And we all said that Lampard and Gerrard could never play together- it seems like Capello has Lampard, Gerrard, Gareth Barry and David Beckham all playing well together and they play as a real team, which is great to see.
It’s surprising what a world class coach can get out of the England players, and for once the FA made a great choice of coach to take over from the hapless Steve McClaren, who should never have been given the job in the first place.
The English players have always been very good individually at club level, for instance who are better midfielders at club level than Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard or Chelsea’s Frank Lampard? But not since our own Bobby Robson was England manager, have they really been a top class team to reckon with on the world stage.
It should be very interesting in South Africa next summer, and we look forward to the England U21 sem-finals on Friday.