The watching Gareth Southgate will have been familiar with the script as England’s under-17’s, including Sheffield United goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst, bowed-out of a European Championship on penalties at the semi-final stage.
On this occasion, the opponents were Holland and the venue was Chesterfield. But, after an intriguing match which tested both team’s mental and technical strength, the Young Lions suffered the same heartache as their senior counterparts against Germany at Wembley 22 years earlier.
Substitute Folarin Balogun was the player unfortunate to miss after 11 well-taken spot-kicks but, as coach Steven Cooper insisted afterwards, the future looks bright for the domestic game.
“You look at what happened and you have to be pleased with the performance,” he said. “In terms of the tournament, I think we’re in a really good place. We came through a tough group, had the pressure of the crowd and, when the pain goes, they’ll be really proud. They won’t have any regrets.”
In years gone by, Kees Van Wonderen’s side would have passed England into oblivion while Cooper’s players, after lustily singing the national anthem, tried in vain to kick their way through. But times, and the way the two countries approach their football, have changed.
Although the visitors boast plenty of individual talent, Chelsea’s Daishawn Redan being the most notable, it was another member of the Londoners’ youth academy - Faustino Anjorin - who emerged as the fixture’s brightest star. Physically imposing but with a delightfully delicate touch, his display deserved a goal before injury struck towards the end of the second-half.
“It was the game we suspected it would be,” Wonderen, whose team meets Italy in Sunday’s final at Rotherham, said. “Technically as well as tactically. We were delighted to play this game because, as we say, you have to fill your backpack with experience. Both teams fought but we were the luckiest of the two. And the happiest of course.”
Dewhurst remained on the bench throughout the contest decided in the cruellest of fashions.
But an opportunity to showcase the talents that recently saw him awarded his first professional contract nearly presented itself in the third minute when Luca Ashby-Hammond stopped Liam Van Gelderen’s shot with his face. The Fulham goalkeeper recovered after treatment. But the incident served to remind Dewhurst about the importance of staying focused, ready and prepared.
It was not until the closing stages of the first period that either side created another chance of note. England’s Faustino Anjorin’s dancing feet had earlier entranced the Dutch defence but his attempted cross was easily gathered by Joey Koorevaar. At the other end, Brian Brobbey glanced a header wide but with at least three opponents in close proximity, it could not be counted as an opening missed. The same could be said when Anjorin, England’s most inventive and creative player, struck the foot of the post in the 38th minute. After ghosting across the penalty area before teasing his markers with a series of tics and feints, the midfielder unleased a powerful low drive which beat Koorevaar but rebounded back off the upright.
“Congratulations to Holland,” Cooper said. “We have a good relationship with them and I’m sure, together with Italy, they’ll put on a really good spectacle.”
England: AshbyHammond, Ogbeta, Garner, Alese, Appiah, Anjorin (Dixon-Bonner 65), Daley-Campbell, Duncan (John-Jules 69), Tulloch (Balogun 75), Saka, Daly. Not used: Dewhurst, Crowe, John-Jules, Coyle.
Referee: Horatiu Fesnic (Romania).
England penalties: John-Jules (S), Daly (S), Saka (S), Ashby-Hammond (S), Appiah (S)