Passionate half-time exchanges helped England U21s turn their fortunes around against Slovakia
PUBLISHED: 11:49 20 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:56 20 June 2017
England are in pole position for a place in the European Under-21 Championship semi-finals after a ‘heated’ half-time exchange turned their fortunes around.
Aidy Boothroyd’s team went into the second Group A fixture against Slovakia needing a win after a 0-0 draw with Sweden in their opener, but were trailing 1-0 at the break.
After a poor opening 45 minutes the Youngs Lions came out with a point to prove, with Norwich City winger Jacob Murphy coming on and adding energy, setting up Alfie Mawson’s equaliser with a fine cross just five minutes later.
“It was a mixture, but it was a little bit heated for a bit, some players were frustrated and I was frustrated at the way we’d conceded the goal, but it’s gone now,” Swansea defender Mawson said after the 2-1 win.
“Aidy was calm, everyone else was calm and I was just saying that we needed to man-up, because there’s no point saying the right things in the changing room and then not doing it on the pitch.
“But credit to the players, we went out there and did what we had to do and at the end of the day, we’ve got what we needed. We could have easily crumbled there when we were 1-0 down with our back against the wall but we didn’t.”
The last time England won the U21 Euros was 33 years ago, when a squad including Norwich defender Dave Watson beat Spain 3-0 on aggregate in a two-legged final. England have since reached only one final, losing 4-0 to Germany in 2009.
With the Swedes being pegged back by a late penalty in a 2-2 draw with hosts Poland, England now know victory will see them qualify for the knockout stages.
They are likely to face a lively atmosphere in Kielce on Thursday (7.45pm) though, as Poland know anything short of victory will see them knocked out.
“We’re not worried about hostile atmospheres as we have players who have played in games in hostile environments before,” former Norwich winger Nathan Redmond, who scored the vital winner, told TheFA.com.
“So we believe in our own ability and in how we play so we want to take that into the games. We wanted to get a win in the first game, but we couldn’t do that and had to settle for a point on the board, so we knew a win was important.”