We at OOTB have introduced a new special feature for the U21 European Championship. Many of the players from these tournaments go onto bigger and better things in the future. With the plethora of young talent on show, we will try to compile lists of the best players from each game, to help you keep a better track of the stars of tomorrow. These reports will be detailed Tactical Player Reports to give you a better sense of how these players perform on a football pitch. For more detailed Scout Reports on the best young footballers, click here.
The English and Norwegians have opposing approaches when it comes to the U21s. The Scandinavian nations chose to send its strongest side to the tournament filled with players who’ve already earned senior International caps (13 U21 Norwegian players had already appeared for the senior side). England on the other hand had the likes of Jack Wilshere & Alex Oxlade Chamberlain eligible for this tournament, but were unable to call them up.
England dominated much of the game, but lacked that cutting edge, lots of balls forward but nothing meaningful. They started the game off well, stringing good passes together, quick movement. But as the game wore on, it became the same old England with no clear plan, resorting to long-balls. The attack looked solid enough for most part, it was their weak defence that let them down.
Norway on the other hand sat-back comfortably, raking in the England pressure and counter-attacking effectively. They only had 30% possession, but were clinical enough to take the chances they did get. A brave defence and well-maintained midfield allowed them to effectively control the opposition’s attack.
Tactical Player Reports
The top of the match for Norway was, their striker, Marcus Pedersen. The team had set up to play with quick counter attacks. It was crucial that their striker serve as an efficient outlet for them, to not only attack, but also release pressure on the defence when necessary. It was a role that required physical work, and intelligence, and Pedersen met this challenge well.
His play was characterised by the intelligence of his attacking movement. He often spun away from the defenders in order to get space. As Norway had a number of players back, England needed to get their full backs forward to pile on pressure. This left gaping holes in the wide areas of their defence. Pedersen was smart enough to exploit these spaces, and draw defenders away from the core defensive area.
On the ball, the player showcased a wide range of skills too. His receiving technique and first touch are both very good, and the ball didn’t get away from him too often. This good control was vital, as it meant that he would hold on to the ball, allowing his team-mates to join the attack.
On the ball, he was very effective. What was most impressive was the weight of his passing. Often, in such situations, strikers tend to get frustrated and start taking shots. Pedersen showed good maturity and vision to pick the correct passes, and ensured that they brought results as the right kind of weight was applied on them.
Defensively, the player did more than his fair share of work, and was constantly harassing the England player on the ball. This was very important tactically, as every player had to work very hard to ensure that the defending was good enough to keep England out, and then counter.
Although he didn’t manage a goal, his most telling contribution was the terrific pass he supplied for Norway’s 2nd goal. A classy first time touch past the England defence and onto Berget’s path.
Jo Inge Berget
Part of Solksjaer’s successful Molde side, Jo Inge Berget is one to watch out for in the near future. With two Norwegian titles already to his name, he made a good case for himself and the rest of Europe on Saturday night at the Hamoshava Stadium.
Berget was meant to play on the right side of attack but with England’s pressure naturally become more narrow and central. He attempted to drift wide as often as possible, doing so as the game wore on with England leaving lots of gaps to exploit at the back. Although Berget usually plays further forward, we got to see a part of his deeper game, and he didn’t fail to impress.
He showed immense maturity to sit deep and distribute balls, also attempting a couple of accurate cross-field balls. He had a decent passing ability, something he wasn’t able to showcase effectively enough as Norway were pegged back for much of the game. But despite that he did show his vision to pick out a pass, creating 3 goal-scoring opportunities. His game was largely deep at the start but he began to naturally venture forward at the latter stages, and we got to see a whole different side of his ability.
In a more attacking zone, he showcased his impressive first touch, characteristic of a striker. He is immensely good on the ball, and though lacking in terms of pace, does have a few decent touches and tricks to get past his opponent. On the ball he has a sense of calmness and isn’t rushed into an error, even when faced against constant pressure.
His moment of magic came in the 34th minute. A good run forward into space, not tracked by the English defence, Berget received the ball perfectly onto his path from Pedersen’s touch, and he smashed it past Jack Butland in the England goal.
After England’s toothless performance against Italy in the previous game, Pearce was quick to admit that England were “awful and stagnant”. With the likes of Ince and Rose back from suspension and Zaha back from injury, on paper England looked a stronger and more exciting team. Coming up against a Norway side they had beaten twice in qualifying, the stage was set for England to get 3 crucial points on the board.
And they started brightly enough. Norway started the game deep and in the 1st 10 minutes England looked surprisingly assured. Playing the ball out form the back and link up between winger and over lapping full back on both flanks were reasons for optimism. Although England did enjoy the lion’s share of possession, their lack of creativity was there for all to see. The fact that Pearce switched positions and eventually even the system didn’t help matters.
In what was ultimately a laboured performance from the Three Lions, there were a few players who did impress in patches. Nathaniel Chalobah who replaced Shelvey in the starting line up made a good start to the game with his distribution from deep pivotal in England’s good start. Shelvey himself improved the tempo of the side after coming off the bench in the 2nd half, however, it was Tom Ince who produced the most eye-catching display.
The Blackpool youngster started on the right and was heavily involved in England’s early attacks. Ince was not shy of taking on defenders and running at them. With good dribbling ability, Ince has the gift of ghosting past players with good close control with his left foot. His aforementioned dribbling ability also results in him winning a fair share of free kicks. And it is more often than not, Ince who dusts himself off to step up and take them. Dead ball delivery is another of his impressive traits with his free kick resulting in Caulker’s disallowed goal towards the end of the 1st half. Ince did fade from the game as it wore on, but to be fair he didn’t get the kind of service that he and Zaha would thrive on.