England U17 qualifying round situation

The England U17 team are currently in Lithuania, they are led by Lydia Bedford who is an excellent young coach and are trying to qualify for the elite round.

The results so far in Group 8 are

Slovenia 0 Russia 1

England 14 Lithuania 0

Russia 2 Lithuania 0

England 0 Slovenia 1

 

And the table looks like this :

1 Russia 6 pts + 3

2 Slovenia 3 pts 0

3 England 3 pts +13

4 Lithuania 0 pt -16

For those who wonder why England are not second in the group, this is due to the competition rules.

The top two in each group and the third-placed team with the best record against the leading pair in their section accompany top seeds Spain into the 24-team elite round draw on 11 November.

The remaining games are England v Russia and Slovenia v Lithuania.

England need to better Slovenia’s result on final day ie if Slovenia lose to Lithuania which is unlikely, England need a draw to finish runner-up in the group. Likewise if Slovenia draw with Lithuania England need a win. For those two cases, if England and Slovenia finish level on points Slovenia will finish above England in second.

Note that in the extremely unlikely case where Lithuania would beat Slovenia and England lose to Russia, Russia would win the group with 9 points and the other three teams would finish with 3 points each.

Here are the tournament regulations :

Article 14 Equality of points – qualifying competition
14.01 If two or more teams in the same group are equal on points on completion of a
mini-tournament, the following criteria are applied to the mini-tournament in
question, in the order given, to determine the rankings:
a. higher number of points obtained in the matches played among the teams in
question;
b. superior goal difference from the matches played among the teams in
question;
c. higher number of goals scored in the matches played among the teams in
question;
d. if, after having applied criteria a) to c), teams still have an equal ranking,
criteria a) to c) are reapplied exclusively to the matches between the teams in
question to determine their final rankings. If this procedure does not lead to a
decision, criteria e) to i) apply;
e. superior goal difference in all matches;
f. higher number of goals scored in all matches;
g. lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received in
the mini-tournament (red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point, expulsion for
two yellow cards in one match = 3 points);
h. higher position in the coefficient ranking list used for the qualifying round
draw;
i. drawing of lots.

Criteria a. is the reason why Slovenia are ahead of England and will finish ahead of England, if the teams are equal in points in a two teams race.

Now let’s have a look at the cases where England, Slovenia and Russia end up with 6 points each, or if England, Slovenia and Lithuania end up with 3 points each.

 

If the top three teams are tied on 6 points, criteria a. shows England, Slovenia and Russia with 3 points each as the Lithuania game does not count in that case.

Criteria b. applies, goal difference in the games among the 3 teams

Slovenia 0 Russia 1

England 0 Slovenia 1

England v Russia

*Should England beat Russia by 2 goals or more, England GD is +1  at least. Russia becomes -1 and Slovenia is 0  England and Slovenia go through.

**Should England beat Russia by 1 goal and score more than 1 goal ie 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 etc

England GD would be 0, Slovenia GD would be 0, Russia GD would be 0 all teams equal on criteria b.  We would then go to criteria c. Slovenia would have scored 1 goal, Russia would have a minimum of two goals (1 against Slovenia and 1 at least against England) , England would have scored at least two goals.  England and Russia go through.

***Should England beat Russia by 1 goal to nil, we have a perfectly equal situation

Slovenia 0 Russia 1

England 0 Slovenia 1

England 1  Russia 0

Criteria a. b. c. shows the three teams equal and we go to criteria e. the superior GD in all matches.

Russia’s GD would be 2,  3 goals for and against 1

England’s GD would be +14, 15 goals for and 1 goal against

Slovenia’s GD would be the result of their game v Lithuania ie a positive GD as they are currently 1-1

England would go through with Slovenia/Russia

 

If the three runner-up teams end up with 3 points

Criteria a. all teams have beaten each other and get 3 points

Criteria b

England 14 Lithuania 0

England 0 Slovenia 1

Lithuania v Slovenia (with a Lithuania win)

England finish runner-up unless Lithuania wins by 15 goals or more and go through.

 

Basically a win against Russia would send England through. A defeat to Russia, combined to a Lithuania win with less than 15 goals also sends England through.

England U17 players go home with pride and having learnt a lot during the tournament

Prior to the tournament, I was hoping for the team to get to the semi-finals. Unfortunately a quarter-final defeat to a superb Japan team, means they will go home a round earlier.

There is no doubt, it was an excellent tournament for the young Lionesses, a learning curve discovering different continental football in a competition.

If we go by what happened for the previous England team that went to the U17 finals around a dozen players made it to the seniors or the Next Gen squad.

If things go well, maybe one or two players might get in the squad for the 2019 World Cup. But we are more likely to see them at the 2021 Euros and 2023 World Cup.

The next step for that generation of girls born in 99 is to link up with the girls born in 98 for the 2016/17 U19 Elite Round in Spring 2017. The finals will be played in Northern Ireland and will act as a qualifier for the 2018 U20 World Cup that will take place in Brittany, France.

I think what we saw throughout the tournament that some players managed to raise their level to challenge world class opponents. Stanway, Wubben-Moy, Russo, Charles, Hinds come to mind straightaway.

Others had some up and down performances and hopefully will get more tournament football at U19 and U20 level to prepare for the seniors.

Because as it was mentioned several times the FA is targeting the World Cup 2023 as a winnable competition.

In term of results, a 3-3 draw against North Korea, a 0-0 draw against Nigeria, a 2-1 win against Brazil and a 3-0 defeat against Japan show five goals scored and seven conceded.

I am sure the staff and players will review the defensive phases that led to the goals to learn from the errors and make sure they do not happen again.

Team defending takes a lot of work to be perfected, because it starts from the forwards and all 11 players must be in tune.

On the attacking side, we saw a lot of creativity and work rate from all the forwards.

Obviously, the playmaking role was given to Stanway who was cruelly missed in the Japan game due to suspension. The City midfielder has been superb orchestrating England’s play.

It is just regrettable that suspension deprived the team from one of the biggest asset. I note that she was also suspended in the first group game at the previous U17 Euros, something that needs to be avoided in future atournaments.

On the day against Japan, England struggled in the 4-1-4-1 organisation without Stanway and once chasing a two goal deficit went to a 4-4-2 that brought more stability and attacking power.

You never know what could have happened has England not conceded two goals at crucial times, beginning and end of the first half, but Japan were certainly superb and showed the value of ball possession.

England fought very well with their traditional weapons but lacked a lit bit of composure under a tough Japanese pressing. In the meantime, we saw a referee who did a FIFA style job whistling for every fouls, something that you don’t see in England and it prevented the English players from physically pressurising the Japanese.

There is no doubt that all the girls have grown and learnt during that tournament and hopefully will get a lot of playing with the development teams for the majority of the girls, while those at certain clubs will go back to first team football.

When the FA WSL 2016/17 first winter seasons starts all those young players with the highest potebtiak need to be around the first team squads in order to develop. Because as mentioned by Emma Hayes, the development league is not strong enough.

And another point she mentioned is losing players to scholarship in US universities. We know that many got offers and the FA rarely selects players who are over there in the NCAA for youth teams. A rare exception being the Harvard GK in the last few seasons.

So well done to John Griffiths his staff and all the girls for a fantastic tournament. Let’s hope for more success in the near future.

Behind closed door England games, a missed opportunity to promote the game ?

The FA has just announced the squad for the Nordics U23 tournament to be played in June and England will play the USA, Norway and Sweden behind closed door.

There is no domestic women’s football played in June, so you would think in term of promoting the women’s games, having top quality U23 international teams in England would be a great opportunity to showcase women’s football at a high level ?

But the unfortunately the FA does not see it that way :

“The Nordic Tournament matches will be open to friends, family and invited guests only”

It just reinforces the feeling that if you are part of the in-crowd, you can get access to the games and see the England youth teams play. If you are not in, well, tough luck.

I note also that when the Nordic tournament is played abroad, you don’t seem to have a problem attending the games at all. I have seen those games in Sweden and other fans saw them in Norway as well without problem.

The same thing happened with the recent UEFA U16 development tournament played behind closed door in England and then a month later England played a six nations tournament in Italy and I attended the England U16 v France U16 game without trouble.

I think the FA has used Loughborough University, the Lilleshall’s National Sports Centre and St George’s Park of course for those behind closed door international games in 2016. I saw also a couple of games at Bisham Abbey in 2015 as well.

It does make sense in term of logistics and costs to use those grounds and save money. If you have good facilities available, why not use them rather than spend money on hiring a ground, security etc.

It is just a pity that fans are not allowed to come and watch. There are certain capacity problems for sure.  For example at St George’s Park, where I recently managed to attend the FA Girls Youth Cup final. The stand next to the pitch where the game was played was so small, it was packed to the rafters.

That game was tickets only to the FA guests and the two finalist teams also got a small allocation. I was lucky enough to get a ticket from one of the club but my fellow supporters and friends who wanted to attend the game, did not manage to get in.

So having a quality tournament on English soil with top teams and not make it available to fans probably due to logistics constraints is a bit disappointing.

I think I could probably get a ticket to those games, because in those situations, it is simply a question of knowing someone who can get you access to the games, but is it really what women’s football is about ?

Having the lucky few allowed to watch youth international games, while other fans get frustrated or angry that they are not given access because they don’t know the right persons ?

Luckily enough, the England fans will able to watch the senior team against Serbia around that time.A  game played on Saturday the 4th of June at Adams Park.

But for those  for example who wants to see Beth Mead tested against top quality U23 international teams, the answer is no.

England U19 double header against France

England U19 will have a training camp and play a double header soon against France U19 at St George’s Park.

From the FA news on the website :

Head coach Mo Marley has named an 18-player squad for the encounter which will take place at St. George’s Park on Thursday 2 June. The match will be open to friends, family and invited guests only.
As usual, the game is played behind closed door with friends and family invited with up to 4 guests  allowed at the game per player.
That information is in contradiction with the FFF information given by France U19 manager Gilles Eyquem :
“End of May beginning of June we will play two friendlies against England.”
So who can we believe, the FA or the FFF ? Is there a ghost game somewhere?
Then if you look at the right place you can find the following information :
Tuesday 31st of May
Match day
17.30 England v France Behind closed door – No spectators
 Thursday 2nd of June
Match day and depart
15.00 England v France St George’s Park
So there is definitely a double header with an hidden game by England for some reason. I am hoping to be able to attend the game on the 2nd of June, pending approval of course.  The ghost game on the 31st of May, well it is a no spectating one.
The France team will be preparing for the Euro finals in Slovakia while England will certainly test some younger players, who will be in the squad next season although they also have a U18 camp lined-up for the younger players.

Should Beath Mead be selected for the England senior squad ?

The answer seems to be an obvious YES as the 21 years old was the League top scorer last season for her first season in the top flight.

Firstly, it is important to note that she has already been called at senior level by Mark Sampson. She was in the squad for the China tournament back in October 2015.

She has already been invited to senior camps as well, so it is quite clear that she is not unknown to the coaching staff and has gone through the age groups at England youth levels.

If we look at her statistics for the FA WSL 2015 season, it is quite telling :

She is number 2 in the goals scored per minute with a goal per 104.92, second to Fran Kirby with a goal every 98.75 minutes.

Her chances to goal conversion rate is good as she is ranked number 4 behind Gilly Flaherty, Fran Kirby and Jess Clarke. She converts 25.53% of her chances while Flaherty converts a fantastic 42.86% of her chances.

Another interesting statistics is the number of chances created, she is ranked number 9 with 19 chances created while Christiansen created 32, Davison 32 and So-Yun 31 in the top 3 players.

So why does she not get more chances at senior England level ?

One of the “problem” is she is quite small 1m63 and at senior international level, it is an important factor in certain positions on the pitch. I remember more than 6 years ago, I was  speaking with a NT manager and a club manager, who had a center forward with exactly the same size as Mead. They both said they’d prefer a taller and physically stronger center forward for the Champions League and international tournaments.

That club bought a very succesful center forward who was 15 cm taller than the smaller one and scored many goals for her club and country. Put it this way, Beth Mead against Wendie Renard challenging for a ball in a 50/50 in the air or on the floor, I have no doubt who will win this battle.

Another question is does her profile fit the England tactical system ?

I would say yes, she could be used in the little and tall association with Jill Scott in the current 4-4-1-1 system currently favoured by Mark Sampson.  It is quite obvious that her profile is well suited to a team that has space in front of them, rather than ball possession in the opposition camp.

What about the competition in her position ?

I think the real reason for her lack of opportunities lies there. The competition for places is huge. If you base your squad on 18 players, you will have 3 forwards including one center forward place and two subs on the bench or maybe three with an attacking midfielder/forward.

Now if look at the long list of candidates to play as a forward for England :

Carney, Aluko, Duggan, Kirby, Taylor, Davison, White, Clarke, Sanderson, Carter, Parris and Dowie have all been called up in the last 12 motnhs.

There are only two typical center forwards players in that list : Dowie who does not get on well with certain squad members and has not been called up recently and Mead.

There are some pure wingers there : Davison, Clarke and Aluko

And then the hybrid players half wingers/half center forwards like Taylor, Duggan, Clarke, Carter, Parris or half wingers / half playmakers  like Carney, Kirby  or Sanderson.

So when you are talking about building a squad, do you take a slightly more mono-dimensional player like Mead, who is a great goalscorer or do you take the players who can play in two or even three positions on the pitch and are likely to  offer more creativity overall?

It is definitely a football philosophical question, as it seems clear that Mark Sampson prefers multi-dimensional players on the pitch rather than a typical goalscorer who plays in the number 9 position and scores goals.

It boils down to this : if your center forward does not score goals, will she contribute enough to the overall team play in the other parts of her game ?

 

We know that England have not scored many goals in recent games. the 2016  results are 0-1, 1-2, 0-0 , 1-1 , 1-0. Clearly a poor return on goals, hence the clamour for Mead to get a game and score the goals that have been missing.

I believe the system more than the players makes it hard for the England team to score plenty of goals, a problem that the France team also faces on regular basis.

I think if Beth Mead was really the panacea as fans seem to make her, mark Sampson would have already have had her a regular in the England squad. We have to remember that we do not know what happens in training  and if Mead fits well with England’s footballing style.

But hopefully she will get another call up soon, so that we know if she can make it at international level.  In the meantime, she is still eligible to play for England U23 team while patiently waiting for another senior call-up.

England U17 a team with potential to achieve greatness

The England U17 are currently in Belarus playing the U17 Euros and trying to qualify for the FIFA 2016 U17 World Cup. That team is full of talented players with a lot of senior football experience for such an age group.

The 18 players squad have first team experience in the FA WSL, FA WSL1  and FA WPL at senior level, something that is realy unusual and valuable for players who are 17 or younger.

For the current 2016 season

Georgia Stanway has made 5 appearances  for Manchester City women and is a regular member of the squad since last season alongside seasoned England international like Houghton, Duggan or Scott.

Hannah Cain has made 2 FA WSL appearances for Sheffield United

Niamh Charles has also made 2 appearances at Liverpool Ladies and already contributed with an assist.

Florence Allen has made a FA WSL 2 appearance with Bristol City and might claim a starting place soon.

Ellie Brazil has made one start with Birmingham City ladies in the FA WSL, while Alessia Russio at Chelsea and Elie Roebuck at manchester City have been involved in the matchday squad.

Hollie Holding has played 5 games for Brighton and Hove in the FA WPL Southern Division scoring one goal overall.

Ella Toone and Kelsey Pearson have made respectively 7 and 5 appearances for Balckburn rovers in the FA WPL Northern Division with 5 goals for Ella Toone.

Grace Smith has played 5 games in the Development team for Aston Villa Ladies

Anna FilbeyTaylor Hinds and Lotte Wubben-Moy made 4, 3  and 12 appearances for the Arsenal Ladies development team alongside their U17 double scoring 6,1 and 3 goals.

Katie Startup is the number one goalie at Gills U17.

Laura Hooper captained the Arsenal Ladies U17 to the double.

Anna Patten was an important player in that team as well.

Lois Joel was an  important player for Chelsea ladies U17

 

If we look at last season’s 2015 (when the players were still U16)

Georgia Stanway made 5 first teamappearances with Manchester City

Lotte Wubben-Moy made 4 first team appearances with Arsenal Ladies.

 

So the backbone of the England U17 team have all played senior football at such a  young age and gained important experience.

Their football skills allied to the quality attacking football played means they have a great chance to finish as one of the top 3 teams at the U17 Euros and therefore qualify for the 2016 FIFA U17 World Cup.Years of works at the different Centre of Excellence have produced top quality players for England.

The team has a great balance in their usual 4-1-4-1 system with the key players being strong on the ball and technical proficient. If you combine it to the usual British competitiveness and mental strength, it is no surprise at all to see that team doing so well.

England U19 need a win and a bit of luck on final matchday in the Elite Round

England U19 are currently third in Group 2 in the Elite Round with all to play for as all four sides have three points.

 

The table looks like this :

  1. Sweden 3 pts 2-2
  2. Belgium 3 pts 2-2
  3. England 3 pts 1-1
  4. Austria 3 pts  1-1

The six group winners go through as well as the best runner-up from the the six groups.

Germany have already won Group 1, so there are six places still available and 20 teams are still in it.

 

Here are the rules if teams are level on points :

14.01 If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of a mini-tournament,
the following criteria are applied, in the order given, to determine the rankings:
a. higher number of points obtained in the mini-tournament matches played
among the teams in question;
b. superior goal difference from the mini-tournament matches played among the
teams in question;
c. higher number of goals scored in the mini-tournament matches played
among the teams in question;
d. if, after having applied criteria a) to c), teams still have an equal ranking,
criteria a) to c) are reapplied exclusively to the mini-tournament matches
between the teams in question to determine their final rankings. If this
procedure does not lead to a decision, criteria e) to h) apply;
e. superior goal difference in all mini-tournament matches;
f. higher number of goals scored in all mini-tournament matches;
g. lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received in
the mini-tournament matches (red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point,
expulsion for two yellow cards in one match = 3 points);
h. drawing of lots.

 

1) A defeat eliminates England

 

2) A draw would leave England and Sweden with 4 points with Sweden ahead of England on criteria f)

1/ Any winner in the other game combined to a draw would also eliminate England as Austria or Belgium would get 6 points and top the group while England would finish third.

2/ If both games end up with a draw all four sides will have 4 points a) b) are not conclusive so c) apply.

England would be behind Sweden in the number of goals scored and would need to score more goals in their draw than Belgium in order to have more goals scored overall and therefore finish second in the Group.

 

3) A win would leave England with 6 points

1/ At the same time a draw between Austria and Belgium would send England through.

2/ Should Austria beat Belgium, England would finish first in the group due to criteria a) and qualify for the finals.

3/ Should Belgium beat Austria, England would finish second due to the same criteria a)

 

The best runner-up rule :

15.01 To determine the best runner-up from the elite round, only the matches of the
runners-up against the winners and third-placed teams in each group are taken
into account and the following criteria are applied in the order given:
a. higher number of points;
b. superior goal difference;
c. higher number of goals scored;

d. lower disciplinary points total based only on yellow and red cards received
(red card = 3 points, yellow card = 1 point, expulsion for two yellow cards in
one match = 3 points);
e. drawing of lots.

 

Considering there are still 20 teams overall who can finish in the top two positions, there are way too  many combinations to look at in every group.

If we look at case 3)/3 :

Belgium and England 6 pts, Belgium ahead as they beat England 1-0, Sweden and Austria 3 pts Austria ahead as Austria beat Sweden 1-0. So results against Belgium and Austria count and England would end up with 3 pts and 1-1 in the runner-up race ( discounting the England v Sweden result)

If we look at case 2)/2  all four teams have 4 points, if we say England drew 2-2 with Sweden and Austria Belgium ended 0-0

  1. Sweden 4 pts  4-4
  2. England 4 pts 3-3
  3. Belgium 4 pts 2-2
  4. Austria 4 pts 1-1

We discount the game against Austria, England have 1 point and will not be the best runner-up.

The current standings are here  and the way things are looking having 3 pts and 1-1 goal difference won’t be enough.

 

So England really need beat Sweden and hope Belgium do not beat Austria to go through.