Posted: 5/11/2018


      It was supposed to be another 3 points and home and dry as Group A winners for Steve Cooper and his u17s  team, but it turned out to be a first defeat at The New York Stadium of Rotherham United, who are in the League One plays offs in the coming days.

       I was told at the entrance that they had sold 9,000 tickets for this vital match for both teams, England and Switzerland, but the announced attendance was 6,146..not bad, but not as good as the England Women's team has attracted here in the past, and no fun kids games and free gifts outside at these UEFA Championships.

      It could realistically have finished 3 or 4 to 1 for the Young Lions. The Swiss had already beaten Israel and lost to Italy and needed two goals to go through to the quarter finals on Sunday. It would have been a disaster if England, The world u17 champions last year had been knocked out at the group stages at the the tournament that they were hosting this year.

     One of my favourite players Tommy Doyle was substituted in the first half with an injured leg and despite very fast and skillful wingers (no Alf Ramsey 1966 wingless wonders here,) they could not break down the Swiss defence. Just on the half time 40th minute the visitors took a surprise lead throgh Felix Mambimbi of BSC Young Boys Bern after it came off an England defender. Attack, attack, attack was the answer from England in the second half, with lots of shots just wide or into the safe hands of Lucio Soldini of Team Ticini between the posts.

       In fact the Swiss 'scored' an offde goal near the end which if allowed would have put them through in second place to Italy in place of the host nation. In the final minute of added time we had the The Young Lions hold the ball in the corner to play out the match and not conceed a second goal. 

      Coach Steve Cooper was full of praise for the oppositon. " Congratulations to Switzerland. Not only the result but the style of play and the players that they had on show. We didn't ply at the level we can do-that's youth development. You have highs and lows and everything is a learning opportunity".

     Coach Steven Marini was really disappointed. " We had a great match and did not deserve to be out. We had six points and two victories and we are out-it's horrible for the players". Steve Cooper again " Two good results have ultimately got us through. Three really tough games and it proved exactly that." 

         Sweden will play Italy at 2.00pm on Sunday in Rotherham in the first quarter final with Group B winners Norway coached by former Leeds United. Lillestrom and Oldham player Gunnar Halle will play England at Burton Albion's Pirelli Stadium later that day at 6.00pm. Halle is assistant coach at Strommen and played 64 times for Norway.

       Friday afternon Belgium beat Denmark 1-0 and win their group with Republic of Ireland qualifying in second place after beating Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-0 and both into the quarter finals on Monday  in Walsall and Chesterfield.