It was a tough start for England in Serbia on Tuesday. Ever since the squad met up last Wednesday, John Peacock and his players had been preparing specifically for their opener with France.
In the build-up, Peacock had encouraged his charges that the best way to challenge the French would be down the flanks and by testing their goalkeeper Quentin Beunardeau.
Those were wise words from Peacock too, as both Nathan Redmond and Alex Henshall were a constant thorn in the side of Les Bleus and it was a cross from the latter which led to the opener from Hallam Hope.
Then, England capitalised on a mix-up at which Beunardeau was at the heart of, with Nick Powell executing a super chip over the ‘keeper to put the Young Lions ahead.
Peacock had also warned about France’s physical power and with three man-mountains down the spine of their team in Kurt Zouma, Soualihi Meite and Sebastien Haller, it was no surprise to see them finish strongly on a heavy pitch which resulted in Haller’s second of the game to equalise.
It’s onto the next game on Friday though, where a spirited Denmark lie in wait. The Danes edged a thrilling game with Serbia on Tuesday and scored a late goal to win 3-2, justifying coach Thomas Frank’s thoughts that his side would be the ‘dark horse’ of Group A.
With the first game out of the way, Wednesday saw something of a rest day for the England squad. A pool recovery after the game was followed by a light session in the morning, before the squad and staff ventured into Novi Sad for a session of bowling.
However, it was slightly different to what was expected and the game turned out to be Serbian skittles. Basically, it was a shorter lane and played on a synthetic surface with smaller bowls which didn’t have the finger grips we’re used to back home.
Unsurprisingly, the ‘keepers proved the most adept, particularly Goalkeeping Coach Simon Smith who racked up multiple ‘strikes’.
Situated in a large, grey, Soviet-style building in the centre of Novi Sad containing a huge swimming pool, a parade of shops and more, it was a far cry from the sort of shopping malls which the players are used to in England.
That’s perhaps another positive note from trips like these, as the youngsters see another side of life for people in a country which was previously under Communist rule and involved in war with its neighbours around the time that these players were born.
On a lighter note, Wednesday evening saw the players head out of the hotel for dinner and pizza was the cuisine of choice before returning back to base in time to catch the Champions League game between Manchester United and Schalke.
There has also been a pick-up of media interest back home too. Peacock did interviews with both Talksport and BBC Five Live on Wednesday, whilst Nick Powell was in demand from uefa.com, along with a number of photograph requests from local agencies and clubs back home so the camera will be out again in training later.
It’s back to business now though, as the players will resume their preparations for Friday’s match. Remember, the game is being screened live by Eurosport and kick-off is at 2pm BST.