Wednesday, June 20, 2007

England U-21's Eliminated in Epic Penalty Shootout Loss

In a game that was as memorable as any in recent recollection, the host Dutch U-21's advanced to the European Championship Final after a 1-1 (13-12 PK's) victory over the England U-21 squad.

Leroy Lita, who, aside from missing a penalty kick in the group stage of the competition, was probably England's best player in the tournament, scored 39 minutes into the game to give his side the lead heading into halftime.

Holland was fortunate just to extend the game into extra time after an 89th-minute bicycle kick goal from Maceo Rigters. The England players immediately appealed for high-kick but there was simply no way the referee was going to disallow the goal; no danger or potential harm was brought upon Nedum Onouha and the goal was never going to be called back. As the match commentator said, it was ironic that an English defender (Steven Taylor) was down injured at the time Holland drew level as it reminded viewers of the scene against Serbia when Slobodan Rajkovic was down and England played on and scored the insurance goal.

When the 30 minutes of extra time had been completed, England had just nine players fit enough to continue as Nedum Onouha was forced off the field and Steven Taylor was barely able to walk.

The penalty shootout was a story of missed opportunities as both teams had chances to end it before Holland's Gianni Zuiverloon coolly slotted home the deciding spot kick. Justin Hoyte's failed attempt during Round 4, which would've effectively sealed the deal for England, gave Holland hope and they took full advantage, scoring right after to level the score at 3-3. Nigel-Reo Coker's shot was saved in Round 9 and he was only avenged when the potential game-winner from Arnold Kruiswijk was put high over the net. Matt Derbyshire put one right into the Dutch keeper's (Boy Waterman) midsection in the 15th round and again England escaped from defeat, this time with a great diving save by Scott Carson to deny Daniel de Ridder. England's luck finally ran out when Anton Ferdinand, who had scored earlier in Round 6, put his attempt off the crossbar and Zuiverloon beat Carson to his right to win the game for the hosts.

It was a classic game between two nations who have some extremely promising youngsters waiting for a chance at the senior level. Holland move on to the final against Serbia, a 1-0 winner against Belgium, and you have to like the host's chances in that game although Serbia have a stout defense. It should be a great match and I'm looking forward to watching.

Lita's goal:
Rigters' late equalizer:
Last two rounds (four shots) of the penalty shootout:

1 comment:

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