A lacklustre England Under-21s suffered a nightmare start to Euro 2021 with a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland. The Nice striker Dan Ndoye’s 77th-minute winner decided the Group D game in Koper, Slovenia, on Thursday.
The impressive Bastien Toma hit a post for Switzerland and Andi Zeqiri was denied by Aaron Ramsdale in a deserved win for Mauro Lustrinelli’s side, who had only 34% of possession.
The extended tournament means the top two from the groups will qualify for May’s quarter-finals but Aidy Boothroyd’s team face an uphill battle with games against Portugal in Ljubljana on Sunday and Croatia in Koper next Wednesday.
They will have to improve on this performance, during which Lloyd Kelly headed their best chance wide in the first half.
“We are not out of it yet and we are going to go for it,” Boothroyd said. “It’s a setback and we don’t moan about it, we get on with it. There’s no time for moping and feeling sorry for yourself with freak goals. We are still in it, we live to fight another day and that’s what we’ll do.
“It wasn’t all doom and gloom but the key thing is the result and we haven’t got it. We lick our wounds, focus very quickly on the next game and make sure we get a good result.”
England, unbeaten in qualifying, never got going and Zeqiri should have given Switzerland a 14th-minute lead when Ben Godfrey lost the ball but the Brighton player shot too close to Ramsdale.
An organised Switzerland never looked in trouble, with England wasteful with their final ball and lacking tempo and direction. Tom Davies and Callum Hudson-Odoi fired off target and Kelly headed wide, but they failed to create clear chances.
Toma drove against the post five minutes into the second half after England again lost the ball, and Boothroyd’s side failed to improve. Ramsdale saved from Kastriot Imeri and it was no surprise when Switzerland found a winner after Imeri laid the ball to Ndoye on the edge of the area. Ndoye slipped while shooting but the ball hit his standing foot and looped over Ramsdale into the top corner.
“We were safe and we were cautious, we played a lot of the ball in front of them but not in between and behind them,” Boothroyd said. “We have got to redouble our efforts and get a good result against Portugal.
“I’m disappointed because we didn’t do enough to score. We were positive with possession but that’s not enough.”
Since 2000 England have been knocked out of their group in the finals of this competition on six occasions out of nine. In 2019 the team, also under Boothroyd, failed to make it to the knockout stages, losing to France and Romania before drawing with Croatia.