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Published 26 March 2024 4 min read
Men's U17

Report: France 2-1 England MU17s

Written by:

Hannah Walker

Young Lions secure place at UEFA U17 EURO Finals in Cyprus after second-place finish in elite qualifying group

England men’s under-17s had to settle for a second-place finish in their UEFA U17 EURO elite group, after suffering a 2-1 defeat to France at St George’s Park.

Greg Lincoln's Young Lions and France came into their final group match in a strong position having both won their opening games, knowing that whoever finished top would qualify for the Finals while even second-spot would be enough as one of the best second-placed teams across the other groups.

And England made an admirable effort to get a result, after playing 75 minutes of the game with ten men, following a first-half red card for skipper Chris Rigg which undoubtedly affected the balance of the game.

There was a controversial start to the match too which saw Josh King denied a penalty, after the Fulham academy player made a fantastic run into France’s box before being brought to the ground. But the referee saw nothing illegal with the challenge so play continued.

The Young Lions found themselves on the back foot after 18 minutes, as the visitors worked the ball down the left flank and delivered a cross into the box. Darryl Bakola was the first to react and tapped the ball into the net to send Les Bleus into the lead.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse for the MU17s when captain Chris Rigg was shown a straight red for a challenge on Rayane Messi Tanfouri in the 24th minute.

And France doubled their lead through Messi Tanfouri 13 minutes later from the penalty spot as the French number nine converted his spot-kick to send his side in 2-0 up at the break.

The Young Lions lineup ahead of the game at St. George's Park
The Young Lions lineup ahead of the game at St. George's Park
England’s ten men did well to limit France’s goal scoring opportunities in the second half and the youngsters even created a handful of chances to get themselves back into the game.

The first came just two minutes into the second 45 when France goalkeeper Ayoube Akabou misjudged a cross from the right. The loose ball bounced into the path of Christian McFarlane but didn’t drop nicely for the defender who scuffed his shot wide.

20 minutes Greg Lincoln’s side carved out another goalscoring chance with some good play down the left. McFarlane’s cross was met by King who beat his defender to the ball but the France goalkeeper was able to collect the 17 year old’s effort.

Ethan Nwaneri netted the Young Lions’ only goal of the game in the 70th minute. A lofted ball found McFarlane on the left touchline who whipped a cross into the box. Nwaneri calmly chested the ball down and struck it with his left foot. The Arsenal man’s shot took a deflection and nestled into the bottom right corner.

The MU17s came close to finding their equaliser when substitute Jay Robinson battled brilliantly to steal the ball from the French defence. The Southampton forward drove towards the box and unleashed a left footed shot but the strike was off target and bounced past the post.

Although the result is not what Lincoln and his squad wanted, the team’s success in their previous EURO qualifying ties mean they make it into the hat for the finals in Cyprus this summer.

England: 13 Oliver Whatmuff (Manchester City), 2 Leo Shahar (Newcastle United), 3 Christian McFarlane (New York City), 4 Joshua King (Fulham), 5 Stephen Mfuni (Manchester City), 6 Kian Noble (Manchester City), 8 Christopher Rigg (Sunderland), 10 Ethan Nwaneri (Arsenal), 14 Baylee Dipepa (Port Vale), 19 Ollie Harrison (Chelsea), 20 Divine Mukasa (Manchester City)

Substitutes: 18 Harry Amass (Manchester United) for Dipepa 45, 15 Jay Robinson (Southampton) for Mukasa 80, 9 Luca Fletcher for Harrison (Manchester City) 84

Substitutes not used: 1 Spike Brits Thorsten (Manchester City), 11 Farooq Sanusi Trevan (Newcastle United), 12 Jaden Dixon (Stoke City), 16 Samuel Amissah (Fulham), 17 Ryan McAidoo (Chelsea)

Head Coach: Greg Lincoln

Goal: Nwaneri (Arsenal) 70’