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England Under-21's crashed out of the European Championships as coach Howard
Wilkinson suffered a shocking third defeat from his seven games in charge.

Wilkinson and his 20-man squad will head home deflated after failing to realise their full potential and
match the high expectations that many people had set.

Questions could now be raised surrounding Wilkinson's position as coach as his record is poor for a
country that has an array of young talent and a superlative recent record at this level, especially under last
manager Peter Taylor.

England offered little in the first half and looked a pale imitation of the side that defeated Turkey by six
goals.

In contrast, the host nation recieving plenty of support from a capacity partisan crowd, looked like scoring
whenever they threatened Nicky Weaver's goal.

However, they only had one clear chance on goal in the first 45 minutes, coming from Nemeth just after
the half-hour. He cut through the shaky Spurs-based defence of Ledley King and Luke Young to
miss-kick wide.

In stark contrast to the first half, England turned up for the second after coach Howard Wilkinson made a
double substitution of Lee Hendrie and Andy Campbell, who came on for David Dunn and John Harley.

Although more equipped in the attacking zone for the second half, England looked unsettled defensively
and far from secure. The young lion's looked tame at the back and struggled to adapt to the attacking
force of the Slovak's.

Then with Slovakia beginning to look short of ideas, and England threatening, the home side grabbed a
suprising lead - thanks to a catalogue of errors in the 67th minute.

Spurs star Young disastrously gave the ball away to Babnic, who cut inside Liverpool defender Jamie
Carragher to hit right footed. The shot struck Ledley King on the way and bounced over the advancing
Weaver.

It could have been 2-0 shortly after the opening goal when Czinege shot narrowly wide from a great
position just outside the area.

Jeffers and Hendrie then made a hash of England’s chances instant response, with the latter seeing his slice
cleared off the line by Cisovsky.

But, in the 74th minute, England's hopes were destroyed when Carragher stood and watched a long ball
out of defence by the goalkeeper Contoflasky, with Nemeth striding on to make up for his first-half howler
and fire beyond the exposed Weaver.

England U21: Weaver, Young, Carragher, King, Mills, Dunn (Campbell 45), Lampard, Murphy, Harley
(Hendrie 45), Cort, Jeffers (Chadwick 78).
Subs Not Used: Robinson, Gardner, Jansen, Carrick, Thompson.

Slovakia U21: Contoflasky, Cisovsky, Lerant, Hlinka, Hrncar, Barcik (Vyskoc 89), Czinege, Petra,
Gresko, Nemeth (Sedlak 88), Babnic (Supka 90).
Subs Not Used: Bartalsky, Meszaros, Mintal, Pulen.
Booked: Hlinka, Contoflasky.

Att: 9,113

Ref: Herbert Fandel (Germany).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


WILKINSON RUES COSTLY ERRORS

Two shocking mistakes in the second half led to Wilkinson's side losing 2-0 to hosts Slovakia with Peter
Babnic and Szilard Nemeth the scorers at the Inter Stadium in Bratislava.

Wilkinson was initially left to reflect on a desperately disappointing performance by his side as they were
outplayed and out-thought by the host nation.

England went into the game knowing they needed victory if they were to have any chance of reaching
Sunday's final, but they failed to realise their potential on a night when it called for strong hearts and minds.

"We played against a good side in very difficult conditions, a full stadium with very enthusiastic fans – it
was a metaphorical lion's den," said Wilkinson.

"In the second half when we were starting to assert ourselves and gain control of the game for the first
time, we made the third of four very massive errors in this tournament.

"Each of those errors has cost us the two goals against Italy (a game which England lost 2-0) and the two
goals tonight. But I have spoken to the players. I think I have got a bit of a smile back on their faces.

Those errors came from Spurs star Luke Young and Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, with Wilkinson
reserving his longest chat for the two dejected youngsters.

"I told them that these things happen and that they will have to take everything in their stride. The
achievements of the players who have got us to this tournament and those that are here now must not be
underestimated.

The 12 players that can play next year will, I hope, have learned an enormous amount from playing in this
tournament."

For skipper Frank Lampard, it was a sad end to a glorious career at this level. Having missed out on
selection for the Euro 2000 squad, this was not the way Lampard was looking to bow out with the
Under-21s.

"This is very disappointing," reflected Lampard. "We went into the game confident of getting a win and
hopefully progressing into the final. But you've got to give the other team credit because they played well,
while we weren't quite at our best tonight.

"But it doesn't overshadow all the good times I have had. There have been some great performances and I
have learned a lot, so I am pretty pleased with that."
 

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I think that the fact is that a lot of the first team players were missing and this resulted in the losses. If you look at the players that were missing you can see that they were very influential and important. I am talking about players such as Wright, Owen, J Cole, R Ferdinand, Dyer, Barry, Heskey and without these then I am not suprised that they failed. They did not have the best young players and I think that ths showed against Slovenia (I thought that they were very unlucjy versus Italy).
About Taylor, I for one do not understand why he did not have his contract extended. Wilkinson is not half as goo as he was and the fact is that he will be sorely missed.
 
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