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England given dose of Euro blues

England 1-3 Italy

By Simon Peach

Published 25/06/2015

Heartbreak: England's Nathaniel Chalobah can't hide his despair after exiting the European Championship
Heartbreak: England's Nathaniel Chalobah can't hide his despair after exiting the European Championship

England Under-21s manager Gareth Southgate said his side were taught "a cruel lesson" after a 3-1 defeat by Italy resulted in a third successive group-stage exit at the European Championship.

A year to the day since a goalless draw with Costa Rica rubber-stamped the senior team's disastrous World Cup, the new generation blew a golden opportunity to progress to the semi-finals in the Czech Republic.

England's destiny was in their own hands after the last-gasp win against Sweden, but it proved a false dawn as the Azzurrini triumphed 3-1 and the national team was once again found wanting.

"In many aspects we did get a desired performance in the way we played and moved the ball and created chances. We let really poor goals in," Southgate said.

"You can be as attractive as you like between the penalty boxes but games are decided at either end and we didn't take the chances we had until the final minute.

"We let poor goals in and it's a cruel lesson for them as I can't be critical of their attitude, their application and effort because they have been a tremendous group to work with and they are hurting enormously in there."

Andrea Belotti scored the opener for Italy against the run of play and Luigi Di Biagio's side were soon celebrating a second as Marco Benassi's low strike took a crucial deflection off Ben Gibson and trickled home.

England fell further behind thanks to man-of-the-match Benassi's fine header before Nathan Redmond salvaged a consolaton when he rifled home in stoppage-time.

England exited at the group stage with Italy after Sweden's late equaliser against Portugal.

Goalkeeper Jack Butland admitted England needed to be more ruthless in both attack and defence following their exit from the tournament.

"As you can imagine (we are) extremely disappointed," he said.

"We weren't good enough on the day.

"There are fine margins in these tournaments and we conceded two sloppy goals in two minutes that has cost us our tournament.

"You have to be ruthless at both ends of the pitch.

"We weren't and we haven't quite been that during the tournament.

"You can play as well as you like between the posts but if you're not good enough at either end... and today we weren't."

Belfast Telegraph

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