As the saying puts it, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. The going has certainly been tough for England at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Germany 2010, and they will be aiming to show their best form against Japan in their third and decisive Group C fixture on Wednesday.
After two matches, the 2009 European U-19 champions and 2010 runners-up have just one point and one goal, both achieved in the opening 1-1 draw with Nigeria. And following their surprise 1-0 loss to Mexico, England’s destiny is no longer in their own hands.
In Bielefeld they will have no other choice but to go out and win convincingly against Asian champions Japan and inspirational young starlet Mana Iwabuchi. With the young Nadeshiko in the same boat as the English, an open but nervy encounter should be on the cards. In addition, both teams will have to wait to see if the result in the group’s other match between Nigeria and Mexico is a favourable one.
“It’s quite a strange situation to be in," admitted England coach Mo Marley to FIFA.com. "I’m proud of my players because they played just like I asked them to. We imposed our style of play and knocked the ball around at will in both matches. But we couldn’t convert our domination into goals in either game. We had great chances versus Nigeria and Mexico, but it wasn’t to be. Against Japan, we’ll do everything in our power to get a positive result. For us, a win is imperative.
“The players are young. Situations like these will help them mature and will provide them with valuable experience for the future," continued the Young Lionesses' supremo. "Many of them have already been through similarly difficult times, but they’ve also enjoyed moments of great success, such as reaching the semi-finals of New Zealand 2008 or winning the European Championship in 2009. On the flip side, we lost in the final of that same event this year. These are all learning experiences.”
Win or bust
The English players could not hide their disappointment following their defeat at the hands of the Latin Americans. “I don’t understand what happened," said Jordan Nobbs, lamenting the 20 shots on goal that ultimately counted for nothing. "We had so many chances, but we just couldn’t get the ball in the net. What's more, we’re pretty used to playing in the rain. But it was the first time that we’ve ever played Mexico, and I have to say that they surprised us.”
One of the many players guilty of profligacy was forward Toni Duggan: “It just wasn’t our day. We missed so many chances. But we have to look forwards. We're still in with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals,” she added.
Michelle Hinnigan, meanwhile, remained calm, resolute and fully focused on the decisive duel with the Nadeshiko. “We’ll study our last match and try to draw some conclusions from it, and we’ll take a careful look at our next opponents to find a way of beating them," said the England captain. "Our only objective is to win. This is our last chance to stay in the competition."