Egypt vs. England: 5 Things We Learned from FIFA U20 World Cup Clash
With two second-half goals, Egypt emerged with a 2-0 victory against England. The result saw both sides exit the competition at the group stage.
Peter Taylor's young Lions had the better of the match against the North African side, but after missing a plethora of chances, they succumbed to two excellent late goals. Thus, England departed without a win in their three matches. Meanwhile, Egypt fell to Ghana in the race to be one of the best third-place sides on account of scoring fewer goals than their continental rivals.
Here's a look at five things we learned from this under-20 clash, focusing on England's young crop.
Ross Barkley must do more to fulfill potential
There is no doubt that Everton's young attacking midfielder Ross Barkley is a talented individual. The youngster is an aware footballer, intelligent in his movement and always liable to find space in between the lines. Allied to that, he has decent technique and a vicious shot in his locker.
His "free role" suggests a lack of trust from his bosses in his ability to carry out defensive responsibilities—which is why he isn't asked to play as part of a central two—as much as it does in harnessing his precocious attacking talents. With luck, responsibility will come as he plays more and matures.
However, as Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United supporters will doubtless tell you, the 19-year-old tends to coast through games, and when the going gets tough, he goes missing altogether.
The match against Egypt on Saturday night was a case in point.
There were bright moments: Paul Scholes-esque passes that oozed quality, deceptive drag-backs, driving runs through the centre of the pitch and clever movement creating overloads in wide areas.
But there were also sustained spells where the game passed him by, leaving him to wander aimlessly. After England fell behind, he did nothing. Barkley needs to improve those areas of inactivity if he is to fulfill his potential.
Inventive Larnell Cole needs first-team exposure
The 20-year-old Manchester United winger came into the starting XI on the back of a bright substitute showing against Chile and was again one of England's better players.
Quick with and without the ball and capable of going outside his full-back or ducking inside and creating something from a more central position, Cole offered England something inventive and different in the final third. His desire to receive the ball in tight areas and to try something different shone like a beacon, especially in contrast to those who had occupied the right-wing berth in earlier games.
This summer, his club career stands at a crossroads. Having been a difference maker for United's title-winning under-21 side last season—scoring twice in the final against Spurs last month—Cole now needs to be exposed to regular first-team action.
That would appear unlikely at Old Trafford. Cole didn't make a single first-team appearance in 2012-13, no matter the competition—such is the wealth of talent ahead of him in the pecking order. With the addition of Wilfried Zaha, it is plausible that he'll see no playing time in 2013-14 either.
A loan move to either a League One or Championship side would, at least in the short term, offer a solution.
Eric Dier is maturing nicely
In contrast to Cole is the Cheltenham-born defender Eric Dier, who enjoyed a breakout campaign in Portugal last season.
The 19-year-old—a regular at centre-half for England in Turkey but more accustomed to playing as a holding midfielder for his club, Sporting Lisbon—can leave with his head held high. After beginning last season with Sporting B in the Segunda Liga, he went on to make 14 appearances in the Primeira Liga for the first team.
For the large part, Dier looked accomplished. He marshaled his back-line well, was solid aerially and also passed the ball out of defence with confidence. A powerful second-half free kick that clattered the crossbar showcased no shortage of technique.
With another season of regular first-team football ahead of him in the Portuguese capital, Dier is one to keep an eye on.
The Harry Kane conundrum
Except for a goal against Chile, this has been a miserable tournament for England No. 9 Harry Kane. On Saturday night against Egypt, one particular second-half miss with the goal wide open was the cherry on top of his awfulness.
But there is also so much lacking to his game that it's unclear just what level of football will become his niche.
The Spurs youngster is a physically imposing specimen, but he doesn't make the most of his gifts. He could make life awkward for defenders and use his physique to gain an advantage against them, but he rarely does so.
Likewise, whilst he isn't the quickest player, he is a stealthy mover who always finds space in and around the penalty area from where he can have an effort on goal. But all too often, that final shot or touch just isn't good enough, and as soon as the chance presents itself, it's gone.
After a good period at Millwall in 2011-12, last season saw loan spells at both Norwich and Leicester, but both offered only disappointment. A first-team place at Spurs wouldn't appear to be forthcoming in 2013-14, so perhaps he is suffering from a lack of confidence.
As such, he, like Cole, finds himself at a crossroads.
Kane will be 20 by the time the new season comes around, and he needs to kick on and make a name for himself somewhere. But he needs regular minutes and a manager to place trust in him. Perhaps a permanent move away from White Hart Lane is the only way forward.
You can't miss chances and not be punished
With a swish of his right boot, Mahmoud "Trezeguet" Hassan gave Egypt a opening goal and the platform to secure the victory that ended England's hopes of a place in the knockout stages. The 19-year-old Al Ahly youngster's moment of magic was enough to send England packing.
But it shouldn't have mattered.
Peter Taylor's young Lions were so dominant in the first half that they should have been safely through by the time Trezeguet beat Sam Johnstone in the 79th minute. England created the chances to be two or even three goals up by then.
But they didn't.
Kane was particularly guilty of glaring misses, but he wasn't the only one. Cole, Barkley, Alex Pritchard and Luke Williams all had efforts that they bungled. Dier was unlucky to hit the crossbar with his free kick.
In the end, they were punished. Maybe it was undeserved, but the higher up the game, the tighter those margins become.
Nevertheless, at any level, a team cannot afford to be so wasteful in front of goal.
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