England were overrun by three goals in six second-half minutes by a rampant Italian team in their opening match of the UEFA European Under-16 Championship at Sheffield United FC’s Bramall Lane stadium.Enthusiastic
A crowd of just under 3,000 enthusiastic and largely partisan spectators turned out to support the tournament hosts against the 1998 runners-up, and in the first half they had plenty to cheer.
England opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Mark Peers’ outswinging corner from the right was met by a powerful header from Liverpool FC’s John Welsh. Italian keeper Andea Ivaldi got a hand to it but could not prevent the ball from finding its way into the top corner of his net.
England remained on top for nearly an hour, but the Italian team then began to pass the ball with confidence and equalised on 60 minutes when Paolo Facchinetti of Atalanta BC finished off a sweet move instigated by Empoli FC’s Francesco Lodi.
Four minutes later Lodi was again the architect as Italy took the lead. England goalkeeper Lee Camp could not hold Lodi’s fierce drive and another Atalanta player, Gianpaolo Pazzini, turned in the rebound from close range.
With England still reeling from the shock, substitute Paolo de Crescenzo eased past David Murphy on the England left before crossing low into the area where Pazzini pounced for his second and Italy’s third. Ciaran Donnelly and Edward Johnson missed late chances for England, who finished well beaten after having much the better of the first half.
England assistant coach Kenny Swain said: "We knew about their players before the game so we were expecting it to be difficult. The first 40 minutes were very positive for us. We not only nullified their threat but caused them some problems.
"In the second half we defended too deeply and found it difficult to get out of our half. They've got some fluid passers of the ball in midfield and the second goal was a real blow."
Fabrizio de Julis, secretary to the Italian team, said: "We were delighted with the result. We knew the first half performance could be improved upon."