Lacklustre England out with a whimper

ENGLAND (1) vs CZECH REPUBLIC (2)

ENGLAND Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce bemoaned a crazy finale which saw the Czech Republic score twice in the last minute to dump his side out of the European Championships.

After a fortuitous draw against Spain and an abysmal goalless stalemate against Ukraine, England required maximum points in Viborg to book a semi-final spot.

Another disjointed performance looked like it would see Pearce’s side make an ignominious first round exit, but when Daniel Sturridge’s right wing cross was met with a powerful header from Danny Welbeck in the 75th minute England were heading for the last four

But hesitant defending from Manchester United’s new recruit Phil Jones allowed Jan Chramosta to toe-poke home from close range in the 89th minute and 60 seconds later, with England caught overcommitted, Tomas Pekhart stole an unlikely win for the Czechs.

“We are disappointed as a group as we felt after taking the lead we should have held on to it,” said Pearce. “They didn’t really cause us a problem all evening defensively but we switched off for a minute, it falls to their player, and it’s 1-1. The second goal was neither here nor there.”

Three games, no victories and just two goals scored represented a pretty miserable return for a side who went into the tournament as the top seeds.

But Pearce believes the dust should be allowed to settle before the inevitable post-mortem on another English failure is launched.

“We will have a look at it when my emotions have settled down a little bit,” he said.

“I was told by members of the press corps a game ago our tournament was a failure even though we are the top seeds in Europe.

“It was probably the best performance of the tournament. But perhaps us going home now was symptomatic of us not passing the ball well enough in the first two games.

“This is a culmination of a two-year period, not just a one-off. The players put their hearts and souls into it. And for one or two it’s the end of the line at Under-21 level.”