Youngsters defeated on penalties in the finalRoyals Academy striker Danny Loader and his England Under-17 teammates were denied the U17 European Championship title, missing out on penalties to Spain in a dramatic final.
Loader made five appearances over the course of the two-week tournament, each time as a substitute, and had helped the Young Lions to the final at Stadion Anđelko Herjavec in Croatia with a clean sweep of victories along the way.
England defeated their counterparts from Norway, Ukraine and Netherlands during the group stages – with an aggregate score of 10-1 across the three matches – before squeezing past Ireland and Turkey in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
Twice the Young Lions led against Spain in the final. Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi fired in first, only for Barcelona youngster Mateu Morey to level things up just before the break. Man City’s Philip Foden, who Loader replaced in the final few minutes, thought his goal would be enough to win – but Villarreal forward Nacho Diaz headed in another leveller, six minutes into added time.
And with no extra time on the cards, the Spaniards used their momentum through the resulting shoot-out and eventually took a 4-1 spot-kicks win, with Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Man City’s Joel Latibeaudiere each missing the target with their efforts.
It was a cruel, cruel way for the youngsters to miss out on becoming the first side to win the tournament for a third time – Spain took that honour instead with their triumph.
But hopefully it has proven useful experience for the likes of Loader, whose inclusion in Steve Cooper’s national side caps an impressive campaign in which, still aged 16, he has made six appearances already for our Under-23 side.
Meanwhile, Luke Southwood and England Under-20 have made a good start to their Under-20 World Cup campaign. The Royals stopper was a sub for the youngsters at the Jeonju World Cup Stadium as they overcame Argentina 3-0 in their opening match – and with head coach Paul Simpson regularly rotating his stoppers, there could be game-time for Southwood in their other two group games against Guinea and the host nation South Korea.