Reading midfielder John Swift and his England teammates were eliminated from the U21 European Championships in the cruellest fashion, as Germany took a spot-kick victory in Tychy.
A game which had seen both teams lead ended all square after two hours of football, but in the tradition of things it was the Germans who progressed on penalties at England’s expense. It was a cruel way to see an impressive Euros tournament come to an end.
Swift was involved for the final five minutes of the 90, as well as the whole duration of extra-time, for his third appearance of the tournament in Poland.
It was already 2-2 by the time he was introduced, which was how it ended. Germany had been first to strike, as Davie Selke headed in Jeremy Toljan’s delivery after a number of Young Lions chances had gone begging.
But scores were level at the break as Demarai Gray slammed in a close-range volley after the ball had pinballed loosely in the German six-yard box, and the turnaround was complete early in the second period when Tammy Abraham was left the simple task of tapping in after some trickery in the box by Will Hughes, who squared for the striker.
Sub Felix Platte pulled the scores all square again 20 minutes from the end of normal time, arriving at the near post to guide an outswinging corner past Jordan Pickford with precision.
Swift, introduced for Hughes in the 86th minute, wasn’t far away from earning a winner in the second period of extra time – he rose to meet a delivery by fellow sub Dominic Iorfa, but guided it narrowly wide.
And so the game would be decided by penalties – we know all about how cruel that can be.
Germany were first to blink as Yannick Gerhardt’s effort was saved by a strong Pickford palm, but immediately Tammy Abraham’s effort was saved in reply.
Ben Chilwell and James Ward-Prowse each scored theirs – added to that of Lewis Baker, who scored the first – and Germany matched them all the way.
Nadiem Amiri took the fifth kick for Germany, but it just slipped off the fingertips of Pickford who went the right way. Which meant that stopper Julian Pollersbeck was the semi-final hero as he got two hands to Nathan Redmond’s effort – sending Germany into the final and eliminating England.
A gut-wrenching way for the tournament to come to the end for Swift and his teammates, who had been on top for great swathes of the game. But they’ll be able to hold their heads high for all they achieved during their time in Poland.