The European Under-17 Championships have their first Semi-Finalists. In beating England 4-0 in Jena, hosts Germany secured a place in the last four whilst also booking their place in this year’s World Cup for the same age group. Meanwhile, Holland beat Turkey to eliminate their opponents, and Switzerland upset the Italians, but Spain continue to struggle in front of goal.
It was Ginés Meléndez’s team that kicked the action off on Saturday, in a re-match of last year’s Final against France. The Spanish dominated the early going with much of the ball but little by way of actual chances to threaten Zacharie Boucher. France grew into the game and used Benjamin Jeannot’s presence up front to get somewhere in the territorial battle, but the first half remained scoreless. The second half was more of an even affair with Spain still toiling in front of goal, and somehow failed to win it with minutes to go when Pardo’s free kick was flicked onto the post and left Alex with an open goal rebound. Unfortunately, he scuffed his effort and allowed France to clear and take a point, leaving Group A finely poised going into the last day.
That’s because in the other game at 2pm local time, Switzerland continued to impress as they beat Italy 3-1 in Torgau. The game was finely poised until the half-hour mark when Azzurri goalkeeper Mattia Perin was sent off for a professional foul on Nassim Ben Khalifa. Kofi Nimeley converted, but the lead was immediately pegged back by Italian goal machine Giacomo Beretta. UEFA’s match centre was causing problems for Eurosport broadcasters, having credited both Nimeley and Ben Khalifa with a goal, so if you’re equally as confused, this is why (and not the only such incident). The Swiss numerical advantage played into their hands as the game went on and they re-took the lead on 65 minutes through full-back Andre Goncalves. This was the second erroneous report, as he was credited with two goals in as many minutes. He did only score one, but fellow full-back Janick Kamber did make it three with a header, to leave his team needing just a point from their last game for a Semi-Final berth.
The main attraction of the day was the hosts’ match against England, and it didn’t let down. After a flying start from the English where captain John Bostock had an early chance, they fell behind to a header from Robert Labus after poor marking from a corner. The goal settled Germany down and they grew into the game, and continued to benefit from some appalling English defending, notably from Watford defender Eddie Oshodi. It was 2-0 before half time when Christoph Buchtmann was allowed time and space to cross and since Oshodi and Tom Parkes failed to clear, Lennart Thy thought it was only fair to prod the ball past Jed Steer. The second half was much of the same, with England going more attacking to try and recover, leaving acres of space for the impressive Mario Gotze to play in. Germany’s third game from a crisp Kevin Scheidhauer drive, and the rout was complete late on when Gotze danced his way through poor attempted tackles and slotted home.
It put them into the Semi-Finals, where Holland lead the way in attempting to join them. They beat Turkey 2-1 to eliminate Abdullah Ercan’s team, and took a first half lead in stoppage time through Luc Castaignos. Ajax’s Ruben Ligeon doubled the lead, and despite a goal from Muhammet Demir, who passed a late fitness test, Turkey had nothing more to offer.
Updated tournament standings can be seen at UEFA.com.