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More of the same, despite poor draw

Our man at the U20 World Cup in Turkey, Pete Hall, thinks England are not too far away despite a disappointing 2-2 draw in their opening game.

Last Updated: 26/06/13 at 14:57 Post Comment

Sam Johnstone: Made crucial double save v Iraq

Sam Johnstone: Made crucial double save v Iraq

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Now the dust has settled after Sunday night's disappointing capitulation against international minnows Iraq, the England camp insists they have learned their lessons and are ready to take the game to Chile in their second group encounter of the U20 World Cup.

Two-nil up with 15 minutes to go, England looked set to net their first U20 World Cup win in 16 years, but the young Three Lions lost their concentration for a moment, and before they knew it, the experienced Iraqis had levelled and snatched a famous point.

And with Chile getting their tournament off to a flyer with a hard-fought victory over a determined Egypt side, England will have it all to do, but wholesale changes will not be made in order to turn things around, and more of the same could result in that unwanted record finally being put to bed.

Up until Iraq got themselves back into the game from the penalty spot, Peter Taylor's youngsters had passed the ball around nonchalantly, and controlled large portions of the game.

But at this level if you switch off for a moment then you will be punished, as Taylor was quick to point out prior to taking on the South Americans.

"The players were a little bit down after the match, as we had enough chances to win," he said.

"But I was very happy with the way we played for 75 minutes, and if we pass the ball around like we did, and make better defensive decisions we will be OK."

England had players out in the middle who made the journey to Turkey on the back of plenty of first-team football, but in comparison to their opponents, who had numerous full internationals in the side, a little naivety was bound to creep in.

Defender Eric Dier, who has broken into the Sporting Lisbon first-team this season, believes playing as much as he has in Portugal has stood him personally in good stead, which will hopefully rub off on his team-mates, in time.

"Foreign football is similar to international football, especially in Portugal, which maybe makes it easier for me than the other players who play in England," he said.

"We have just got to move on from Sunday. The first goal was very sloppy, especially on my behalf, but we will learn."

Aside from the passing and movement, there were plenty of other positives to take from the game.

Harry Kane lead the line with aplomb, Luke Williams was lively throughout, and in Ross Barkley, Taylor has a player capable of taking apart the best this level of football can throw at him.

Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone also shone, and thought his stunning double save, which started a counter-attack leading to England's second goal, was enough to seal the victory. However, it wasn't to be, and he insisted the performance warranted more.

"That's just football. We have to see out the game," said Johnstone.

"I reviewed my performance with the coaches, and I thought I did well, but so did the team."

Many thought that England's draw seemed kind, and qualification was a mere formality. But after the opening round of matches, I can assure you that is not the case.

Chile will be a huge test of course, but don't discount Egypt who were unfortunate not to get anything out of their opener, highlighting the strength of the group.

The youthfulness of the participants is very much a leveller, especially early on, but if you stick to the game plan, eventually experience will come, and if England play to the same level as they did against Iraq, and learn the art of closing out a match, it is only a matter of time until 16 years of hurt is confined to the history books.

And with the talking over, let's just hope this whole crescendo of confidence isn't brought crashing down by the talented Chileans, and after 16 years in waiting, an England U20 side can finally taste a World Cup victory, and put one foot in the last 32.

Follow Pete on Twitter at @pistolpeteh86 for all the latest news and goings-on at the U20 World Cup.

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