England Under-21's 'did not have enough desire' says Norwegian FA chief
Peter Taylor hopes to avoid humiliation Stuart Pearce suffered with Under-21's as he prepares his side for the Under-20 World Cup
As Peter Taylor prepares for the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey this week, hoping to avoid the humiliation suffered by England's Under-21 side, the determination and desire of the country's youngest players has been called into question.
Bjarne Berntsen, the vice-president of the Norwegian FA, whose team knocked England out of contention in the Under-21 tournament with a 3-1 win, believes the young Scandinavians were more highly motivated. "The most important thing is that every one of our players wants to be here, wants to perform, wants to win," he said. "I can understand when you are a star in a Premier League club, your season has ended a month ago, you have to be mentally strong and you have to decide you want to be here. Maybe that can be a question to ask, if there is enough desire to be here, if it means enough for big players."
The Norwegians' attitude, from their federation down to the players, was to have the strongest squad available, which is why four of them flew through the night from a senior World Cup game in Albania to join up on the day of the England game. One of them, Blackburn's Josh King said: "We landed at four o'clock in the morning and didn't get much sleep, but the boys beat England with only one of us four needing to come on. We have our best squad here. And if you want to win, that's the way to do it."
There is still a certain kudos in beating England at any level, as Berntsen well knows. He was right-back in the team that defeated Ron Greenwood's side 2-1 in a World Cup game in 1981, the famous "your boys took a hell of a beating" match.
Taylor's Under-20 squad will find Saturday's opponents Iraq equally determined to make history of their own. Although a number of England players who would have been eligible went with the Under-21s instead, there are one of two with Premier League experience, like Ross Barkley, who played nine times for Everton last season and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, who had 19 first-team games. England have also suffered far fewer withdrawals than at previous events in Colombia two years ago and Egypt in 2009, which were held in August and September respectively, with the result that several clubs simply refused to release players.
"We're missing a couple but overall I'm really happy," said Taylor, who as a previous Under-21 manager will be a strong candidate to take the job again if, as expected, Stuart Pearce's contract is not renewed this week.
England Under-20s squad:
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Manchester United), George Long (Sheffield United), Connor Ripley (Middlesbrough).
Defenders: Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon), Jon Flanagan (Liverpool), Luke Garbutt (Everton), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest), Danny Potts (West Ham United), Adam Reach (Middlesbrough), John Stones (Everton), Tom Thorpe (Manchester United).
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Gael Bigirimana (Newcastle United), Conor Coady (Liverpool), Larnell Cole (Manchester United), John Lundstram (Everton), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).
Forwards: Chris Long (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Alex Pritchard (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Williams (Middlesbrough).
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