Under-21s Review: Why England's Future Looks Dark Ahead of World Cup 2014

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 12, 2013

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JUNE 11:  Manager Stuart Pearce of England during UEFA European U21 Championships, Group A match between Israel and England at Teddy Stadium on June 11, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Played three, lost three: That's the record England's U21 side leave the European Championships in Israel with after a dismal, disheartening week.

Success breeds success, and this competition is the type you want to be excelling in. Germany won it in 2009 using Sami Khedira, Mats Hummels, Manuel Neuer, Mesut Oezil and Marcel Schmelzer . Look where those players are now.

For England, it was the same old story: scared on the ball, panicked into lumping it and misplacing simple passes. No teamwork, just a set of individuals playing on a football field, running to no avail.

For many countries this wouldn't be too much of an issue, as their senior national sides are in full working order leading up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

However, England appear shambolic on almost every level, and many fans were holding out hope that some good performances in Israel could propel a couple of youngsters into the main fold.

No dice.

England were outclassed by Italy and deservedly lost 1-0 in the opening game. Craig Dawson had a goal ruled out in very questionable circumstances, but Alessandro Florenzi was denied a stonewall penalty and Lorenzo Insigne ripped Nathaniel Clyne apart all game long.

Marco Verratti controlled the game in a way Stuart Pearce could only look on and admire, and it became clear the Three Lions never had the utensils necessary to stop the Azzurri in their tracks.

Selection policy was a subject tentatively raised after that night in Tel Aviv, but the loss to Norway—which knocked England out with a game to spare—turned whispers into screams.

The Drillos have a good side, an underrated group of players, but England should not be losing by a two-goal margin. The third and final defeat to minnows Israel turned a bitterly disappointing trip into a downright embarrassing one.

Pearce's men failed to grab a single point and scored just one goal across three games. How on earth did it go so wrong?

England fans are legitimately worried that the U21 European Championships were a dry run for the disappointment they'll feel in Brazil next summer—that is, if they even make the competition.

Expectations are seemingly at a record low after disappointing performances from the senior side against the Republic of Ireland and Brazil. Granted they were both draws, but no claim that the side played well in those fixtures can be taken seriously.

The large majority have lost faith in Roy Hodgson's abilities, with some believing at the time of appointment it was a poor decision, and Pearce now falls into the same spectrum.

Everyone in England knows that if the team does make next summer's showpiece event, they won't make an impact. But the limp, lifeless performances from the U-21 side only served to heighten that depression, and many who were searching for a small escape have been left empty-handed.

Worst of all, the BBC has revealed that Pearce has blamed his players for the poor showings. That's not what the fans want to see, because the fans know what the real problem is.


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