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Two horrendous errors ended England's hopes of retaining the UEFA Under-19 Championships as they were beaten 2-1 by France in the Final in Skopje.
Despite having the majority of possession and territory for most of the match, they failed to create sufficient chances to pierce a well drilled French defence while gifting both goals to their opponents.
Things had looked so good for Mo Marley's side during the opening 25 minutes which they dominated and they had opportunities to take the lead. Jordan Nobbs fired a shot over the bar whilst Toni Duggan burst through but elected to pass instead of going through on goal, however she played the ball just behind the oncoming Demi Stokes.
Minutes later, Duggan again did well to work her way into the area and this time her shot brought out a smart block from Laetitia Philippe. An inswinging corner from Jess Holbrook caused problems but Gemma Bonner was just unable to divert her header on target and it hit the side netting.
England's early enterprise was rewarded on 25 minutes as they went in front. Again Duggan was heavily involved, breaking into the area and cutting the ball back to Holbrook who, despite having three defenders around her, drilled a low shot inside the post.
However all the good work was undone just three minutes later as Rebecca Spencer played the ball out to Lucy Bronze who lost the ball under pressure and Rose Lavaud strode through on goal before calmly planting the ball into the corner of the net.
Although rocked by the goal, England continued to have the better of things but France closed the first half out and were happy to go into the interval on level terms.
The opening ten minutes of the second half were largely uneventful but France suddenly found themselves ahead following a catastrophic mistake. After receiving a back pass, and under no pressure, Spencer tried to find a defender but instead played the ball straight to Pauline Crammer in front of goal, the French striker gratefully accepting the gift. It was a rare error from the England keeper and she looked crestfallen afterwards.
Things could have got worse three minutes later as Marina Makanza looked certain to score but Gilly Flaherty's challenge was just enough to put her off and she shot wide. However the influential Flaherty suffered an ankle injury as a result and had to be replaced.
Spencer twice made amends for her error with excellent saves, firstly as Lavaud broke through and held off Stokes' attentions before Spencer pulled off a point blank save. The England keeper then did well to turn an inswinging Amelie Barbetta corner over the bar.
A desperately tired looking England began to wilt in the heat and could make little impression against the French defence, coming closest as Duggan latched onto a fine Stokes pass but her shot was blocked by Philippe, who was otherwise untroubled.
French celebrations were wild at the final whistle and England's dejected players were left to reflect on how they had lost a game to a side which had not created either goal put past them.
England: Rebecca Spencer, Lyndsey Cunningham, Gilly Flaherty (sub Rebecca Jane 62mins), Abbie Prosser, Lucy Bronze, Gemma Bonner, Isobel Christiansen (sub Lauren Bruton 77mins), Jordan Nobbs, Toni Duggan, Jessica Holbrook, Demi Stokes. Subs not used: Lauren Davey, Shelby Hills, Sam Chappell, Drew Spence, Jodie Jacobs.
France: Laetitia Philippe, Caroline La Villa, Kelly Gadea, Adeline Rousseau, Lea Rubio, Marina Makanza (sub Lea Le Garrec 59mins), Pauline Crammer (sub Camille Catala 80mins), Solene Barbance (sub Anaig Butel 59mins), Ines Jaurena, Amelie Barbetta, Rose Lavaud. Subs not used: Solene Chauvet, Melissa Godart, Cindy Berthet, Marion Torrent.
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