The history books will say that England’s FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 quarter-final ended in a 3-2 defeat by Germany. Yet, for the England fans who turned out in support, the enduring image will be one of a team giving their all to pull off an incredible comeback that proved just beyond their reach.

At 3-0 up, Germany appeared to be in complete control against their unbeaten opponents and on course for an emphatic victory. England had other ideas. The Three Lions showed great heart and no shortage of skill to force their way back into the game and come within a whisker of turning the match on its head.

It hurts that we’ve been knocked out, but we must keep our heads held high and keep on moving forward.

England's captain Nathaniel Chalobah

After the game, a visibly disappointed Nathaniel Chalobah gave his thoughts on his side’s performance. “How do I explain what happened?” said the England U-17 captain. “Basically, we were up against a different opponent to the ones we’d seen before. They used different tactics and, what’s worse, we made schoolboy errors in dealing with them.”     

“It was the opening 25 minutes that cost us the match,” said the Chelsea youngster. “If you make mistakes like that against a team like Germany, it will always cost you dear. At the same time, you have to congratulate them because they’re a great team, both physically and technically, and they were able to hold out for the win.”   

With his side 2-0 down, Chalobah was involved in a chance that could well have changed the outcome of the game. The defender executed a brilliant overhead kick that forced Germany goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos into a fine save. “I just saw the ball drop and thought, ‘I’ve got to give it a go’, and as I turned around, I saw the keeper make the save,” said Chalobah. “You have to give him credit: he prevented a goal that could have changed the match.”

English pride intact
Chalobah’s team-mate Jordan Cousins nodded in agreement. There was a definite hint of sadness on the young right-back’s face, but he was keen to focus on the positives from the thrilling encounter in Morelia. “We deserve credit as well,” said Cousins. “We never gave up, we scored two goals and we never stopped looking for the third. Sadly, we were unable to find it.”   

“I think we really showed our true character in the final 20 minutes,” added the tall Charlton Athletic defender. “We stayed together as a group despite being behind, got back into the game and if we’d had just a few minutes more, I’m sure we would have got the equaliser.”

While many of Germany’s players sank to the ground in exhaustion at the final whistle, all 21 members of England’s squad stayed on their feet and formed a circle with coach John Peacock. What exactly did Peacock say at this point? Cousins explained: “He told us we should feel proud, not only for our display against Germany but for every match we played at the tournament. It was great to hear the crowd cheering, because they too recognised the efforts we made”.

The pair now face a long journey home, but before heading off to the team bus, captain Chalobah signed off with one last message. “I’d give anything to go back and play the match again,” he said. “It hurts that we’ve been knocked out, but we must keep our heads held high and keep on moving forward.”