England saw their dreams of winning the 2019 European Under-21 Championship go up in smoke following a crushing 4-2 defeat to Romania.
Aidy Boothroyd’s team were determined to bounce back after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against France earlier in their opening match but were ultimately overwhelmed by Romania’s most promising generation since the 90s.
A closely fought game came alive in the final 17 minutes when six goals were stunningly produced with England learning the hard way. Successive crushing defeats means they’re all but eliminated from this summer’s competition.
Next up is a meeting with Croatia on June 24 when their fate will either be sealed or has already been decided. Before that here are some thoughts from this encounter in Cesena.
Foden’s absence was baffling
Normally when a player starts on the bench he’s fit to start. England were unlucky to lose against France, though fair to say they were the architects of their own downfall. So, this match against Romania became a must-win, if only to restore some momentum. Boothroyd, who came under intense scrutiny following that loss, shuffled the pack and dropped mercurial playmaker Phil Foden which raised a few eyebrows. Of course, it’s the manager’s pejorative, but as the Manchester City man showed when he came on it proved to be a strange decision to leave him out from the onset.
Like father, like son
Romania’s run to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup remains their greatest achievement on the international stage. Back then The Tricolours were inspired by the incomparable Gheorghe Hagi – affectionately dubbed “The Maradona of the Carpathians” – now all these years later he remains a omnipotent figure domestically managing the club he found Viitorul Constanța which his son Ianis captains. Hagi junior is among the brightest stars of this new generation and was devastatingly good against England illustrated no better than his individual effort to put them back in front after squandering a 1-0 lead so quickly after being achieved.
Too many individual errors
England needed to be close to perfect which they unfortunately weren’t. Questionable tactical decision aside some of the goals England gave away could have been prevented. Yes, easier said than done, but once again the young Three Lions were their own worst enemy. Jonjoe Kenny (in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka) needed to be more clever when he slid in late on Florinel Coman to hand Romania a penalty to break the deadlock. Poor defending allowed Hagi to restore their lead – after Demarai Gray drew level – and Dean Henderson’s howler, following a long range Florinel Coman strike, did the same after Tammy Abraham’s equaliser. Positives can be drawn from this but England must rue another tournament exit when expectations were high.