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Despite the heroics of Lauren Davey, England Under-17 went down to a battling 3-1 extra time defeat to France in Nyon to end their UEFA Under-17 Championship hopes.
The idyllic setting of the Colovray Stadium overlooks Lake Geneva but the game was played in blustery conditions which hindered both young sides at times.
The opening 45 minutes saw the French have the wind at their backs and consequently have the lion's share of the game, but the England backline held firm. Davey showed safe hands to stop shots from Pauline Crammer, Marina Makanza and Crammer again inside the opening fifteen minutes as Les Bleus started confidently. Makanza threatened again after another exciting run on 22 minutes but the central defensive pairing of Jordan Nobbs and Gemma Bonner both put in brave blocks.
Davey was again called into action, standing tall to save with her shins after French 'keeper Laetitia Philippe had launched a long ball which evaded the England defence but at the interval, the scoreline was still goalless. At half time, Hope Powell popped down to the England changing room, and within six minutes of the re-start she was bouncing up and down in the stands.
Danielle Carter was felled right on the edge of the French area, and left back Stefanie Marsh curled a beautiful free kick up and over the wall, leaving Philippe rooted to the spot to give England the lead. Just two minutes later though and the French were level. Makanza again went on a mazy run and after tracking her gamely, Sarah Wiltshire mis-timed her tackle, enabling Crammer to cooly equalise from the spot. Makanza again showed her pace and power with twenty minutes to go, beating Jacobs before firing a shot which beat Davey but clipped the crossbar.
As the match went into its final five minutes, Davey again distinguished herself with two good saves. After Ines Jaurena found herself in acres of space at the back post, England's 'keeper blocked with her knees, and then produced a flying tip over to deny Lea Rubio, as the game went into extra time.
England continued to mount a brave rearguard display and Davey pulled off two more saves with her feet from Makana and Jaurena, the second at full stretch possibly by the finest brush of a toenail. England had the ball in the back of the net on 96 minutes from a thunderous Jess Holbrook finish, but the Everton midfielder was marginally offside from Carter's pass.
But as the clock ticked towards penalties, France scored twice in four minutes to move into the Friday's final against Germany. Substitute Marine Auguis held off Jemma Rose and Stefanie Marsh to beat Davey on 104 minutes and Makanza scored France's second penalty with two minutes remaining, after Rose had been harshly adjudged to have felled the flying winger.
A tough lesson for England's young players as they had to see their opponents dancing in the centre circle at the final whistle, but Lois Fidler's young side will take the experiences and hopefully come back stronger at the FIFA World Under-17 World Cup in New Zealand in October.
England: Lauren Davey, Lucy Bronze (sub Jemma Rose 94mins), Stephanie Marsh, Jessica Holbrook, Jodi Jacobs, Gemma Bonner, Sarah Wiltshire (sub Lucy Staniforth 64mins), Jordan Nobbs, Danielle Carter, Rebecca Jane (sub Rachel Daly 62mins), Isobel Christiansen.
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