England, beaten finalists in 2009, made a winning start to the 2010 Uefa Under-19 championship, defeating Austria in Flers, Normandy. A victory over the Netherlands in their second Group A match on Wednesday should be enough to take them into the semi-finals. Noel Blake's youngsters took a two-goal lead inside the opening 29 minutes, both goals scored by the West Ham striker, Frank Nouble, and were always in front. Yet, tiring in the second half, they conceded long periods of possession to the Austrians, who scored twice and almost snatched a point in the closing stages.
The failure of England's senior players in South Africa has placed the new generation under rather more of a spotlight than they might have expected a month or so ago, not least because Spain's World Cup victory established a clear pathway from this level to the pinnacle of the game. Much of the Spanish team that beat the Netherlands in Soccer City progressed through the age groups. Indeed, Spain have won four of the last eight Under-19 championships, in which England have not been successful since 1993.
Yet there are signs of progress. England were runners-up in this championship in Ukraine last year and won the Under-17 title this summer. Blake's side at times looked too strong for Austria yesterday, although their strengths were the traditional English ones, of pace and power, rather than technical finesse.
If anything, the Austrians, who arrived at the finals with a feeling that had over-achieved merely by qualifying, looked the more assured on the ball. They created the first chance when David Alaba, from wide on the right, drilled a shot across the face of Norwich keeper Declan Rudd's goal. Yet by half-time England effectively had the game in their grip, Nouble twice having taken advantage of long balls launched beyond the Austrian back line for he and co-striker Nathan Delfouneso to chase.
The first came in the 13th minute, Emir Dilaver only half clearing a direct pass by Matthew Briggs, which Nouble picked up and struck with power past goalkeeper Philip Petermann at the near post. The second was created with an almost identical pass, Nouble spearing a path between floundering centre backs before flashing the beyond Petermann from a wide angle than exposed the goalkeeper's positioning even more painfully.
In between, Petermann denied Delfouneso after the Aston Villa player had linked cleverly with Dean Parrett, who later hit the bar with a free kick as England sought to extend their lead.
The Austrians initially had looked unable to respond. But Alaba followed Parrett's lead in thumping a free kick against the woodwork and scored with one early in the second half.
The goal encouraged Austria to believe they could play their way back into the match and England were grateful that their two-goal cushion was restored in the 55th minute, barely three minutes after they had lost it. This time, a corner delivered from the right by Tottenham's John Bostock was headed goalwards by Villa defender Nathan Baker, chested down by Delfouneso and steered home by Arsenal's Thomas Cruise. England probably should not have offered Austria another way back. Yet they subsequently lost a little of their tempo, allowing their opponents time on the ball and conceded a second goal after 73 minutes through Gernot Trauner's low drive.
England (5-3-2): Rudd (Norwich); Cruise (Arsenal), Caulker (Tottenham; Thompson, Rangers, 87), Baker (Aston Villa), Brown (Manchester United), Briggs (Fulham; Clyne, C Palace, 55); James (Manchester United), Parrett (Tottenham), Bostock (Tottenham; Mellis, Chelsea, 77); Delfouneso (Aston Villa), Nouble (West Ham).Reuse content