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England U21’s vs Croatia U21’s

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all well.

On Tuesday 28th March 2023, I attended my first England Under 21 match. It was England vs Croatia in a warm up friendly ahead of the EURO’s in the summer. The match was played at Fulham’s Craven Cottage and was a night game, I thought the stadium wasn’t too far from my house in Wembley … but I was pretty wrong and it ended up taking about an hour 30 to get there. It was also my first time at Craven Cottage so got to tick off another stadium. The seats were located directly next to the tunnel on pitch side so had a great view, as we entered the stadium the players were existing the pitch from their warmup and I got a quick photo with Aston Villa’s Cameron Archer. It was a great turnout with 5005 people in attendance at the home of Fulham.

This was England’s second EURO warm up game, with their last being a 4-0 victory over France, Michael Olise started for the away side so my English loyalty was questioned a little 😬. In the win Noni Madueke was fantastic picking himself up a goal and two assists in just 23 minutes of being brought on as a substitute! He along with Jacob Ramsey and Curtis Jones, who both scored in the last match earned places in the starting 11 for today’s match.

Croatia’s last game was last Thursday giving the visitors more time recover. They drew 0-0 to Israel in a friendly match.

Lee Carsley made 10 changes to the line up compared to the France game with keeper James Trafford the only one to keep his position. The rest of the changes consisted of; Rico Lewis, Ben Johnson, Nathan Wood, Luke Thomas, Jacob Ramsey, James Garner, Tommy Doyle, Cole Palmer, Curtis Jones and Noni Madueke replacing Djed Spence, Charlie Cresswell, Levi Colwill, Max Aarons, Oliver Skip, Angel Gomes, Morgan Gibbs-White, Harvey Elliott, Emile Smith-Rowe and Cameron Archer. With this being a friendly unlimited substitutions were allowed so gave the manager a good opportunity to see everyone in action ahead of the summer.

In a battle of set pieces England’s Young Lions final EURO warm up fixture ends in a 2-1 defeat to Croatia at Craven Cottage.

The Young Lions began the game very brightly and set the tone for the majority of the match.

Cole Palmer was a standout player from the start with most attacks going down his side. The young Manchester City winger some great runs down the right, within the first 10 minutes he came close to setting up James Garner but his shot was blocked for close range.

His threat continued from set pieces where his delivery met the head of Nathan Wood but the defender was unable to direct it towards goal.

PSV winger Noni Madueke was another threat down the left side, he posed the same threat he did against France three days prior, his skills was very impressive and left the Croatia players in lots of trouble.

The Croatian goalkeeper, Dominik Kotarski, was called to action to stop a close range shot from Curtis Jones (which again was set up by Palmer), Kotarski had a very good game which frustrated England both fans and players.

Despite it looking like the home side would score first, it was in fact Croatia who got the opener. The Young Lions were hungry for the ball, but sometimes too much … a foul was awarded against Rico Lewis just outside the box. Croatia’s number 16, Martin Baturina, took the responsibility of taking the free kick and placed the ball perfectly in the top left corner, even someone of the England fans had to applaud the goal.

At half time Lee Carsley looked to his bench to replace his goalkeeper James Trafford with Joshua Griffins, before an abundance of changes throughout the half.

The Young Lions started the second half much like the first in complete control of the game. Madueke immediately forced a save from the keeper after working himself some space in the box.

Against the momentum it was once again Croatia who got a goal from another set piece. After being beaten down the wing on a counter attack Luke Thomas gave away a clumsy penalty Dion Beljo converted to make it 2-0.

From a corner Madueke forced another low save from the keeper after receiving the ball in lots of space on the far side of the box.

Captain Jacob Ramsey had the next chance he worked the ball past his defender but it was blocked by the keeper, the Aston Villa midfielder was found in the box by Rico Lewis following great linkup play between the two Manchester City players - Lewis and Parmer.

Substitute Morgan Gibbs-White had the chance to put his team ahead after gaining the captains arm band. A great delivery from Palmer was straight onto his head but the Nottingham Forest player couldn’t direct the ball past the keeper.

Tommy Doyle’s long distance shot was ONCE AGAIN saved by the keeper who was having a great second half!

Despite missing his earlier chance Gibbs-White did get the constellation goal in the 85th minute. A lovely long ball up field from Ben Johnson met the winger who took the ball in his stride before being wiped out by the keeper… the referee had no option but to point to the spot and Gibbs-White converted the penalty to make it 2-1 and a tense final few minutes.

The rain was coming down making the surface slippery and the players were sliding about. A slip from substitute Max Aaron nearly cost a goal but he would be thankful the ball was put just wide of the post.

I feel as though England were really unlucky to concede the two goals with them both being against the phase of play, England were the more dominating team but simply couldn’t find the back of the net apart from the closing penalty. They definitely have a lot of positives to take into the summer where hopefully they will have a strong campaign!

My next game is against Leicester back at Selhurst Park on Saturday, so look out for that post.

Thank you for reading.

Ellie Xx


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