UEFA Under 17 European Championships: England lose to Switzerland at Rotherham but still make knockout stages

England huddle during the UEFA European U17 Championship, Group A match at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
England huddle during the UEFA European U17 Championship, Group A match at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
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England reached the knockout stages of the UEFA under-17 European Championships, despite tonight's defeat by Switzerland at New York Stadium.

Steven Cooper's side had beaten Israel and Italy en route to their final Group A fixture but qualified behind the Azzurri after succumbing to Felix Mambimbi's goal.

England, who named Sheffield United goalkeeper Marcus Dewhurst among their substitutes, grew in stature as the evening progressed but nearly conceded a second when Julian Vonmoos saw an effort scrambled away to safety in added time.

"The most important thing, the first objective, was to get out of the group," Cooper, whose team now faces Norway on Sunday, said. "There are mixed emotions because we've lost a game of football but the boys must not lose sight of the fact they have done that."

The Swiss midfield laid the platform for this victory with an industrious and at times inventive first-half display. England, who fell behind moments before the interval, made the required adjustments during the second period but, try as they might, were unable to force an equaliser..

"Game management was probably they key," Cooper continued. "That's probably the biggest thing we can learn from that. We'll get back to St George's Park, reflect, analyse, and be better for it."

The almost unfathomable set of rules used to decide which two countries progressed to the next phase pf the competition was criticised by Switzerland's head coach Stefan Marini, whose players now return home despite beating the Young Lions.

"It's a really big deception," he said. "We win games and we have a good goal difference but we still go out. We have a better goal difference and have beaten a team that now goes through. But the rules are the rules and we knew them beforehand. It is sad but it is also the same for everybody."

"Congratulations to Switzerland," Cooper admitted. "Congratulations on both their result and their style of play too."

The host nation had earlier created two gilt-edged opportunities within the first quarter of the game. Faustino Appiah of Nottingham Forest and Arsenal's Folarin Balogun were both thwarted by the excellent Soldini, with the latter drawing a particularly eyecatching save from the Swiss. But, as the half progress and England's momentum dwindled, Marini's side began to carve openings of their own. First, Bledian Krasniqi went close from the acutest of angles before the FC Zurich centre-forward drew another decent block from Luca Ashby-Hammond

When Julian Vonmoos hit the side-netting soon after, it became clear the dynamic of the fixture had changed. So Mambimbi's strike, swept home from the near the penalty spot, came as no surprise.

Although falling behind will have disappointed England's coaching staff following their team's encouraging start, it did provoke a response. Faustino Anjorin flashed inches wide and saw a low drive blocked.

Xavier Amaechi ensured the Swiss defence remained under pressure, flighting a teasing ball across their area, which Ethan Laird turned past the post. James Garner sent Soldini darting across his area as England continued to pose questions but failed to engineer a breakthrough.

"Tonight was a brilliant learning opportunity for the players," Cooper said. "They've had to go to places emotionally they've probably not been before. That will be of massive benefit to their development."

Switzerland: Soldini, Sauter, Omeragic, Tushi, Jankewitz, Vonmoos, Krasniqi (Vasic 69), Mambimbi (Werthmuller 74), Wornhard, Sohm, Jacovic. Not used: Mol, Solimando, Mesonero, Rieder, Witzig.
England: Ashby-Hammond, Crowe, Garner, Laird, Alese, Appiah, Doyle (Dixon-Bonner 13), Anjorin (Daly 57), Amaechi, Saka, Balogun (Duncan 51). Not used: Dewhurst, Ogbeta, John-Jules, Daley-Campbell, Doyle.
Referee: Horatiu Fesnic (Hungary).
Attendance: 6146