Following Friday’s defeat to Denmark, it was a rather subdued coach journey back to the hotel from FK Vojvodina’s Karadjordje Stadium but an after-dinner meeting with Head Coach John Peacock soon got the players’ minds re-focused on the job ahead.
England basically face a cup final scenario in their last Group A game on Monday. A victory over Serbia will secure qualification for next month’s FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico, and if France fail to beat Denmark in their game then a semi-final place would also be guaranteed.
So the target is simple: win Monday’s game.
In terms of Friday’s match, Peacock summed it up after the game by saying his side’s poor start cost them dear.
It was highlighted before the game that Denmark would look to hit the Young Lions on the break and that was how it proved. A glorious strike from Viktor Fischer, said by many to be better than that other Danish wonderkid Christian Eriksen, set them on their way before a second shortly after from big striker Kenny Zahore gave them a crucial cushion to defend.
The good thing about tournament football though, is that it’s never long until your next match and the squad are now preparing for Monday’s game determined to put things right and get their first win of the competition.
After a light training session in the sunshine on Saturday, the group took the opportunity to visit the impressive Fortress of Petrovaradin in Novi Sad.
Planted on the right-bank of the River Danube, the Fortress offers fine views of the city and is a stunning piece of work, with over 16km of underground tunnels to boot.
The Fortress also hosts the annual ‘Exit’ music festival every July, with over 20,000 people from England attending last year’s shindig. This year’s headliners include Arcade Fire, Pulp, Jamiroquai, M.I.A, Portishead and Groove Armada. A shame this competition wasn’t two months later, as there might have been some extra support at the games should any of the festival goers wanted to escape the Fortress for a few hours!
After descending back to ground level, the group headed to Novi Sad’s old town area where the players were given the opportunity to have a wander, browse the shops and admire some of the architecture in place, whilst the staff stopped to have a coffee at the ‘Only Fools And Horses’ café just off the main square. Inside the cafe, photos of the likes of Del Boy, Rodney and assorted other characters from the classic BBC comedy show adorned the walls. It must be popular in Serbia.
It’s back to training and more preparation for the players on Sunday though, as they get ready for the game with Serbia in Indjija.
The pitch was far from ideal when we played France there in the first game, but word is that it’s been improved since then.
There will undoubtedly be a bigger crowd in place for this game given it’s the host nation in opposition, so there will be a more lively atmosphere than what the players have experienced out here so far, but that’s all part of the international tournament experience which can be so crucial in any young footballer’s development.
Let’s hope they can get the right result.