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France crush England to reach final

France continued their relentless progress towards the final of the UEFA European Under-16 Championship by overcoming England in front of more than 30,000 spectators at Newcastle United FC's St James' Park.

French players celebrate after the first of Florent Sinama Pongolle's two goals (©Empics)
Spectacular bicycle kick
France silenced the home fans with two swift goals, the first a spectacular bicycle kick by Anthony le Tallec, the second a jinking run and shot by Florent Sinama Pongolle. England rallied to put the French defence under pressure, Craig Westcarr missing narrowly with a header, but towards the end of the first half England keeper Lenny Pidgeley was forced into a series of fine saves from Sinama, Le Tallec and Mourad Meghni.

Intense pace
After the break the game continued at the same intense pace. Westcarr created a chance for himself with some excellent control, but his volley was blocked by French keeper Mickaël Fabre, still unbeaten in the competition.

Sent off
With ten minutes remaining England's John Welsh was sent off for kicking an opponent and the French exploited England's numerical inferiority. First Sinama skipped through the middle to score his sixth goal of the tournament from the edge of the area; then Le Tallec got his second with a looping header into the top corner.

'France set the standard'
After the match England coach Dick Bate said: "France set the standard in youth football and tonight we saw the levels we must aspire to. They are athletic, technically excellent and have a fantastic football education. Conceding two early goals gave us a mountain to climb, but they are a wonderful team."

'We showed our strength'
His counterpart Jean-François Jodar said: "We showed our strength today and the early goals gave us a big advantage. The second half was more difficult but we managed to press on and kill the game. Everyone worked well. Playing in front of 30,000 spectators against England at St James' Park was great. But we must keep our feet on the ground and build on what has been achieved already."

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