Brazil delivered a knock-out blow to England's prospects in the Toulon Festival here as the South Americans booked their place in Friday's final with a goalless draw.
For 80 minutes, the English were willing sparing partners, hustling tenaciously but without finding any punch. A goalless draw from a match which never lived up to its pre-match promise meant England missed top spot in Group A on goal difference – indeed, such was their lack of bite, the Brazilian goalkeeper Rubinho did not have a shot to save.
Given their youth – England have sent just an Under-20 team to this Under-21 tournament due to the proximity to the European Under-21 Championship – Martin Hunter's team did well to make this last match of their group campaign so vital. They and Brazil have eight points after the draw, but England's goal difference is four inferior and has left them grounded in second place.
Hunter's squad rotation policy has been in direct contrast to the policy of Brazil's Marcos Castro. In each of their three games before yesterday, Castro had selected the same 11 players. While Hunter made seven changes from the team which beat Portugal on Sunday, his counterpart picked another unchanged line-up.
Among those returning for England were the Chelsea goalkeeper Rhys Evans, Wolves' centre-back Joleon Lescott and the Manchester United forward Danny Webber, who has recovered from an ankle injury. The Derby midfielder Adam Murray could only make the bench on his return from suspension after dismissal against Poland.
Webber, his club-mate Jimmy Davis and Leon Knight of Chelsea were the strikers charged with getting the goal England needed, but the trio hardly had a sniff.
England were unable to get Davis, their key man, into the game while Webber's presence was hardly felt. Nothing happened for England in the crucial final third of the pitch, despite Webber starting to hold the ball up with more assurance, so Hunter brought on Gary McSheffrey of Coventry to replace the quiet Davis.
The final whistle put England out of their misery – but they will not go home yet. A third place play-off awaits them on Friday, against either Japan, Germany or Italy, with Group B placings to be decided today.Reuse content