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Wickham shoots England into final

Published: Thursday 27 May 2010, 17.44CET
England 2-1 France
England are through to Sunday's final thanks to two first-half Connor Wickham goals and a thwarted France comeback.
by Paul Saffer
from Rheinpark Stadium
Wickham shoots England into final
England's Connor Wickham (right) celebrates his opening goal with Robert Hall (left) and Conor Coady ©sportsfile
Published: Thursday 27 May 2010, 17.44CET

Wickham shoots England into final

England 2-1 France
England are through to Sunday's final thanks to two first-half Connor Wickham goals and a thwarted France comeback.

Two first-half Connor Wickham goals took England into the UEFA European Under-17 Championship final despite a fightback from France.

England dominated before the break and towering forward Wickham twice neatly finished after getting behind the France defence. With 24 minutes left Paul Pogba headed Les Mini-Bleus back into the game but England held on and will bid for their first U17 title against Spain here on Sunday.

Six of England's starting outfielders had been rested from the XI in Monday's 2-1 win against Turkey, though previous second-choice goalkeeper Jack Butland was retained. One of those restored, William Keane, had an early header blocked by Alphonse Aréola, reclaiming his place in the France goal from Maxime Dupé.

Aréola did well again to save when Benik Afobe had only the keeper to beat. Keane then limped off to be replaced by Robert Hall, who immediately had a shot blocked by a defender. At the other end Anthony Koura showed fine close control to create a chance but Yaya Sanogo's overhead kick flew over.

On 23 minutes England made their deserved breakthrough. Afobe held up a long ball and waited to feed Wickham, who beat Aréola with an angled shot. France looked to respond immediately, Jérémy Obin heading wide from a corner, and when Sanogo was sent clear Butland produced a superb one-handed diving save. But England doubled their lead just before the break when Conor Coady set up Wickham for another confident finish.

Although France started the second half brightly, England were soon back on the attack, Ross Barkley's effort stopped by the diving Aréola, but Butland also had to tip a Pogba shot round the post. The resulting corner came deep to Abdoulaye Doucouré, who feinted then crossed for Pogba to head in at the far post.

After another France corner a few minutes later it was almost 2-2 but Koura flicked his header over. England were under pressure but Wickham broke clear and was denied a hat-trick only by the feet of Aréola. Moments later Butland got down well to frustrate substitute Dylan Deligny, and when Youssouf Sabaly worked himself a shooting chance, he missed the target.

Billel Omrani was brought on for France and turned a header wide, and there was a heart-stopping moment when Butland had to block a mis-kick from team-mate Nathaniel Chalobah. But just as in the semi-final three years ago between these sides, England clung on, and hope to go one better than they did against Spain in that 2007 decider.

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Match statistics

EnglandFrance

Goals scored2
 
1
Goal attempts6
 
7
Fouls committed9
 
10
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