It has happened again. Germany have beat England on penalties. It all came down to the last kick with Redmond, England’s most senior player, needing to score to keep England in the game. As Redmond put the ball down on the spot, the pressure was well and truly on. He stepped forward and shot, but the penalty was too near the middle and within Pollersbeck’s reach. He got two strong hands to it and sent Germany into the final. The young Lions were heartbroken, but they got to the semi final for the first time in eight years; a huge improvement which bodes well for the future of English football.
It looked like England were on for a historical win to reach the finals when Hughes intercepted the ball from Gnabry, and ran into the area turning left, then right. He laid it off towards Abraham who tapped it in, which put England in the lead. At that point, England had been incisive and quick on the ball. Germany could not handle Hughes’ silky feet as he danced his way past the German players. Abraham gave Jung and Kempf a torrid time, with his strength and clever play. Abraham could have scored with quick play by Gray and Hughes in the right corner which put him through, but luckily for the Germans, Jung was there to intercept what would have been a certain goal.
Chalobah did a magnificent job in stopping Germany advancing up the pitch with accurately timed tackles and intelligent interceptions. But in the second half, England lost him through injury and their whole game plan was disrupted.
Germany too had their chances, and for a long period in the first half, found lots of space down the right with Jung making a mockery of Chilwell. Gnabry was nearly in when he tried to head the ball past Pickford, but it was overhit and went out for a goal kick. Selke and Meyer both had chances as they cut through England like a knife through butter.
England did not heed the warnings and was punished. Meyer played a through ball to Toljan, who had made an unprecedented amount of runs causing chaos down England’s left wing. Selke, who was waiting for the delivery, even had time to slip and readjust himself to head past Pickford, who had no chance. The England defensive pairing -Chambers and Mawson – did not do enough to stop him, but it was deserved due to Germany’s incessant, attacking football.
Germany’s downfall was on set pieces, with Chambers allowed to have two efforts on goal, before Gray thundered the ball into the back of the net to put England level. It got better for England after Abraham gave them the lead just after half-time, but since then, the in-game tactics left a lot to be desired.
England were at their best when going forward and asking questions of the German team, but bizarrely, Aidy Boothroyd decided England were to sit back from then on. Germany seized this opportunity and threw men forward in their droves. Germany, who had two less days of rest than England, looked fitter while England looked beleaguered, trying desperately to hang on. They were inviting Germany to score, and that is exactly what they did. It was a carbon copy of Chrien’s goal for Slovakia, but this time the scorer was Pratte, a corner flicked into the near post met his head, and he directed it past the hapless Pickford. England were asking for that, but England continued to sit deep.
Attack, after attack, after attack, Germany kept on coming, with England wondering when it would end. Selke, Meyer, Arnold, they all had chances but England still clung on trying desperately to survive until extra time. Germany’s chance came. It was the effervescent Toljan who skipped past Chilwell and put a low driven cross into Amiri, somehow the ball completely missed him, had he connected, England would have been going home.
In extra time, Germany’s dominance continued but mistakes crept into their play as the hard-working Germans grew tired. Germany couldn’t find the goal to put them through, but they came out on top in the shoot-out and booked their place in the final.
Questions will be asked of Boothroyd whose negative in-game tactics was perhaps the reason why it is not England who are in the final. They did well to match the Germans, who had almost double the amount of first division football than the England team. But Germany should have won in normal time, they had more opportunities to win the whole tournament, not just this game. It has been a fantastic year for the Young Lions with the U20’s winning the World Cup and the Toulon Tournament. However, the class of 2017 will only go on to have brilliant careers if their club managers are willing to give them a chance.
England XI: Pickford 7, Holgate 6, Chambers 6, Mawson 6, Chilwell 6, Ward-Prowse 8, Hughes 8, Chalobah 7, Gray 8, Baker 6, Abraham 7
Subs used: Murphy 6, Redmond 6, Swift 6, Iorfa 7
Germany XI: Pollersbeck 8, Toljan 8, Gerhardt 6, Jung 7, Kempf 7, Meyer 7, Arnold 6, Gnabry 8, Haberer 7, Philipp 6, Selke 8
Subs used: Platte 7, Kehrer 6, Amiri 7 Kohr 6
Man of the Match – Toljan