A disappointing opening draw against North Korea has left England with it all to do in their second match. With the four best third-placed teams to make it through to the last 16, it is not do or die yet, but England – who face Argentina in Medellin this evening – know they need a much-improved performance if they are to raise morale.
The timing of the tournament means that England's players are still in pre-season. "For a lot of them, Friday's game [against North Korea] was the first 90-minute game they'd played in two to three months," coach Brian Eastick said. That is all but unavoidable given the rhythm of the English calendar, but where Eastick has been let down is in the 36 players he might have selected who were made unavailable by their clubs.
"I have no control over it, so I'm not frustrated," Eastick pointed out. "Those players should be frustrated – because they're missing a great learning experience. It will be interesting to see on the opening day of the season how many of those players are in their first teams and how many are in the reserves."
As a result of the withdrawals, Eastick has been left with an inexperienced squad that has rarely played together and which, combined with the relative lack of fitness, complicates preparations for today's game. "My concern as a coach is that these players have only been training for three weeks," Eastick added. "Physically, the first game took a lot out of us. Argentina start as favourites."
Argentina, who have won this tournament a record six times, were fleetingly impressive in beating Mexico 1-0 on Friday, with the smoothly potent Erik Lamela scoring the goal, while Juan Iturbe continually caught the eye with his darts from the left after coming off the bench at half-time.
For much of the game, though, Argentina were too overly direct, which had been a regular criticism of their play during a disappointing South American Youth Championship.Reuse content