England blanks blue-and-white at U21 Euros

With a loss, a draw and just one group game left, National Team must beat the Czechs and get help to advance.

 Picture of England midfielder Emile Smith Rowe (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID KLEIN)
Picture of England midfielder Emile Smith Rowe
(photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID KLEIN)

The Israel Under-21 National Team fell to England 2-0 on Sunday night in the European Championships being held in Georgia. The result dropped the Israelis into last place in Group C after two games. 

Head coach Guy Luzon’s team will now need to defeat Czechia in their final contest on Wednesday in order to have a chance to advance to the knockout stages of the competition. 

In the opening game, the young blue-and-white played to a heroic 1-1 draw with Germany to get the tournament off to a positive start as ’keeper Daniel Peretz saved a pair of penalties while Dor Turgeman scored the lone Israeli marker to split the points. 

The victory gave Israel plenty of confidence heading into its second group game against the Three Lions, arguably the strongest team in the tournament.

Bolstered with the top five players from the Under-20 team that finished in third place at the World Cup held in Argentina earlier in the month, Luzon decided to go with an offensive-minded starting lineup in order to try and surprise England and steal a result at Shengelia Arena in Kutaisi.

 May 24, 2023 Israel players pose for a team group photo before the match (credit: AGUSTIN MARCARIAN/REUTERS)
May 24, 2023 Israel players pose for a team group photo before the match (credit: AGUSTIN MARCARIAN/REUTERS)

Reflections on the game

However, Lee Carsley’s squad quickly showed its quality as Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon headed home a brilliant cross by Morgan Gibbs-White to give England a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. 

Israel tried to find the equalizer soon thereafter, but Omri Gendelman’s opportunity went over the bar and Turgeman’s header just went wide of the target. 

The blue-and-white’s best chance came right before the first half came to an end as Eitan Azulay lined up for a free kick, but Manchester City shot-stopper James Trafford made the timely save to keep his side in front at the break.

Israel tried in earnest to draw even as the second half got underway, but Red Bull Salzburg’s Oscar Gloukh’s cross into the box just missed its intended target to keep the score as is. 

However, it wouldn’t remain that way for long as Arsenal property Emile Smith Rowe finished off a beautiful team passing play to double the England advantage to 2-0 in the 68th minute.

Both teams made wholesale changes over the final 20+ minutes of play as Israel tried to get back into the game while England attempted to add to the lead. But the game ended with a 2-0 win for the young Three Lions leaving the blue-and-white needing a win over Czechia on Wednesday for a chance to advance to the next round of the competition.

Should Israel defeat Czechia, it will still need Germany to drop points in its final group game against England. Should both Israel and Germany win, the team with the better goal differential will move on. Germany holds a one-goal lead on Israel as it scored in a 2-1 loss to Czechia. Should the teams be tied on goal differential, the next tie-breaker goes to red and yellow cards and once again Germany holds a 5-6 lead in that category heading into the third game.

“Defensively, we played well,” Luzon began following the game. “England only had three chances on goal which was great, but offensively whatever we tried just didn’t work. We attempted a different formation and that didn’t work as we just had a very tough time against the quality of the English team as we couldn’t create chances. We can’t forget that they are the best team in the tournament.”

“If someone had told me that we would go into our final game with a chance to advance with a win in a so-called ‘group of death’ I would have sighed right up for that. Czechia is no less a quality side than Germany and we will have to take a good look at their play. We will need to come in cool, calm, and collected in order to control the ball and to be able to advance. We will do our maximum to get the job done.”

“The result was really important for us,” England coach Carsley said. “We spoke about it beforehand, making sure we performed and we spoke about mentality and having that ability to find a way to win. We knew it would be a tough game, Israel doesn’t score many goals but doesn’t concede many either. It was a good performance, but there is a lot more to come from this team.”

Gloukh also reflected on the game.

“We did everything that we could. This was a very tough game and for the most part, we defended. We are now looking ahead to the next game which is going to be like a State Cup final with our goal, as always, to win. Each one of us will do our best and we will battle to the final seconds of play.”

England’s Gordon spoke about the importance of winning and advancing to the next round of play.

“It was a massive game. Getting through to the next round was our goal at the beginning of the tournament, we’ve done it but we still have a long way to go. Some things we could do better with that performance but two wins, no goals conceded, onto the next one.”