The group stages in Germany came to an end on Friday, and tournament holders and favourites Spain fell by the wayside, with a lack of goals their downfall. They at least have the consolation of a place at the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria later this year, but England don’t even have that, losing late on to Turkey.
The day was split into two, with Group A taking the morning slot and Group B playing in the evening. Switzerland, topping Group A, met Spain, who were in search of goals but surprisingly didn’t change formation or look any more dangerous. Once again, some poor luck and profligacy when presented with chances meant they were unable to make an impact on the scoresheet, but the Swiss deserve much credit for another solid performance. Granit Xhaka might have scored but for the intervention of Marc Muniesa on the goal line, whilst Kofi Nimeley was a presence in midfield.
Whilst Spain were desperately looking for their first score of the tournament, over in Taucha, France had taken an early lead against Italy in a fixture they had to avoid defeat in to qualify. Neeskens Kebano had put Les Bleus on their way but the lead didn’t last the half, with Simone Dell’Agnello heading in after a flurry of Azzurri pressure. The pace of the game continued into the second half and when Stephen El Sharaawy was fouled in the box ten minutes into the second half, Simone Sini was able to convert for the goal to take Italy into the Semi-Finals. France finished bottom and miss out on the Under-17 World Cup, their place going to the Spanish, which will be of scant significance to a team expected to contend.
Group B had one team through and another in a strong position, and in due course, Germany and Holland would both qualify. The hosts were already through and chose to use three squad players in some rotation, whilst Holland needed just a point to advance. Even a defeat would be enough should England fail to turn around a five-goal swing in their game against Turkey. The English went out with an attacking line-up in an almost 4-2-4 formation, but only had three substitutes (two defenders and a goalkeeper), missing Jose Baxter through suspension, and Ryan Tunnicliffe, Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey injured.
Whilst they toiled against a Turkish team determined to finish this tournament with something (having already been eliminated), Germany held sway in Jena. Their first half dominance was given a half-time lead by a sweet finish from Lennart Thy for his second goal of the week. The second half was much of the same and Manuel Janzer doubled the advantage to send the majority of the 6,500 in attendance away happy, with three wins from three games. It left the Dutch somewhat nervous though, knowing England now only needed three against the Turks.
As it was, they didn’t even get one. Late in the game Furkan Şeker beat Sam Johnstone from close range to not only sink England’s tournament chances, but take their World Cup berth and keep it for themselves. England will be extremely disappointed with their tournament, having such fantastic firepower and yet only registering once through a left-back, whilst defending abysmally.
That all means that Friday’s Semi-Final line-up is this:
11am CET – Switzerland vs Holland (Grimma)
17.45 CET – Germany vs Italy (Dessau-Rosslau)
Both fixtures are live on Eurosport, and you can read more on the tournament, as ever, at UEFA.com.