England U21 draw with Croatia U21, Foden Impresses again in England U21 Thriller, England but exit Under 21 Football Euros. Aidy Boothroyd’s standing among his England Under-21 players has taken a hit over his controversial omission of Phil Foden against Romania last week. England led three times but were pegged back, with a late Josip Brekalo goal denying them their only group win. Despite having arguably one of the strongest squads in Italy, England will be heading home early after their final group game against Croatia.
Leicester striker James Maddison restored England’s lead early in the second half, but a fine, curling, first-time shot from Nikola Vlasic levelled the score at 2-2 in the 62nd minute with the latter being withdrawn after being injured on the scoring play. England crashed out of the European Under-21 Championship finals last Friday after a 4-2 defeat against Romania in Cesena.
The alarm bells started ringing when Boothroyd named his 23-man squad last month and there were too many attacking midfielders and not enough defensive ones. Nelson, Tammy Abraham and Lloyd Kelly were handed first starts and each impressed initially. England had chances to increase their lead before Josip Brekalo levelled with a fine strike on 38 minutes.
Boothroyd has been in charge of the Under-21s since 2016 and is well liked on a personal level by the players but the manner of England’s exit has not helped his reputation. Boothroyd added: “Scored six, nine against – they’re not tournament-winning statistics. “When things are going great it doesn’t get any better but if you want to get better you have to have a bit of adversity and you have to respond properly to it.
Brekalo equalised for Croatia six minutes before the break when he cut inside from the left and fired a shot into the top corner. England were far from finished, however, and on 70 minutes Jonjoe Kenny struck a superb goal from distance to restore the lead. Maddison restored England’s lead with a fine finish three minutes into the second half after the Croatian defence had failed to clear a Nelson cross.