Early Doors

Typical England

Early Doors

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Football reporting has always tended to stray into the realms of hyperbole, especially where major tournaments are concerned. It seems nowadays that every bog-standard transfer is a 'sensational swoop', any player who spends more than a few years at the same place is a 'club legend' and teams don't just get eliminated from championships but instead invariably 'crash out.

But, make no mistake, crash out is exactly what England's Under-21 side did last night after their late capitulation saw them lose 2-1 to Czech Republic in Viborg and leave the European Championships in Denmark at the group stage.

It was the sort of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory that would have made the seniors blush. After labouring for so long before finally grabbing a lead 15 minutes from time that looked like sending them through to the semi-finals, but Jan Chramosta's 89th-minute leveller was enough to send them home. Tomas Pekhart's injury-time winner just stuck the knife in.

Soon after the final whistle the phrase 'Typical England' was trending on Twitter. It seems that England's fans are just as prone to reverting to type as the players.

Considering England were runners-up two years ago and the semi-finals in 2007, plus the seniors usually at least making it out of their group at tournaments, the 'typical' tag seems a little harsh. However, limp and uninspiring exits brought on by an almost institutionalised lack of cohesion and creativity are nothing new for supporters of the Three Lions at any level.  

Manager Stuart Pearce admitted right after the final whistle that his emotions were still running high, and he reacted to the exit with a mixture of bemusement, pride and defiance.

He said: "We are disappointed as a group as we felt after taking the lead we should have held on to it.

"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.

"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."

That last piece of understatement sums up England's failings at this or indeed any other tournament nicely. Aside from the performances of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in defence, there are very few positives to take from an abject 270 minutes' worth of action from the so-called top seeds.

While they managed to secure a draw against Spain in their first match, they did so largely by watching the tournament favourites run rings around them in two thirds of the pitch and concentrate on limiting the number of chances they created. The individual performances of Jones and Smalling offer the most encouragement for the future, although their burgeoning partnership needs plenty of work before they can be considered true heirs to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United.

Jordan Henderson showed just how significant a percentage of the £20 million Liverpool have paid for him is based on potential, while the withdrawal from availability of Jack Wilshere was made all the more glaring by England's continued struggles in possession.

There were flashes of quality from Danny Welbeck (whose two goals in Denmark represented 100% of England's strikes in the tournament) and Daniel Sturridge, but all too often England's young players like a group of fit sportsmen trying out a new game.

Just as Hunter S Thompson's lament that America was "raising a generation of dancers" eventually inspired a dodgy song by The Killers, so England's nurturing of crop after crop of finely-tuned athletes ill-equipped for top-level football has led to a chorus of disapproval from England fans who fear not just for Fabio Capello's current squad but for those of several of his successors in the years to come.

Pearce, as an honest man who would never hide his feelings, will no doubt accept his share of the blame. There will certainly be calls for his tenure to end, but England's problems go far deeper than that. Until an overhaul of coaching and youth development takes place and clubs are more willing to co-operate with the FA over the release of their players for internationals, it looks as though England will continue to crash out of tournaments for many years to come.

But then, isn't this always the reaction following exit from an international championship - a knee-jerk call for 'root-and-branch' reform at all levels of the game followed by little or no action? Typical England.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Just had the best phone call of my life. It was from Morrissey's personal security man asking if I would like to meet the great man @ Glastonbury." - The former Smiths frontman has requested to meet another divisive, misunderstood figure who is not afraid to say what he thinks, Joey Barton, at this weekend's festival, according to the Newcastle midfielder on Twitter.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The boorish behaviour of the local police and their groundless brutality in relation to Zenit fans has an extremely negative effect on the image of Russian football. FC Zenit asks the Russian Football Union and the Russian Football Premier League to take all measures to protect players and fans from thoughtless violence on the part of the police." - Zenit St Petersburg are to make a complaint to the authorities over claims that riot police shot striker Danko Lazovic with a stun gun.

COMING UP: Paul Parker will be filing his latest blog later today, while we will also be giving a run-down of the nominees for the left-back position in our Premier League best XI.

There is also a double-whammy of action from other sports, with live coverage of the first day of Wimbledon and the final day of the Third Test between England and Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl.

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