Belgium had to win to retain any chance of qualifying for the 2013 U21 European Championships and that’s what they did when Brescia’s Omar El Kaddouri scored the winner in the 92nd minute.
England seemed to be coasting on the hour after an early goal from Liverpool’s Martin Kelly had given them the lead. Then Belgium coach Francky Dury introduced El Kaddouri and Zulte Waregem’s Jens Naessens and the game was turned on its head. After 72 minutes, the Brescia midfielder crossed for Naessens to equalise and just when quite a few fans were heading for the exits, El Kaddouri scored the winner after a shot from Anderlecht’s Ziguy Badibanga had rebounded from the post.
After the match England coach Stuart Pearce gave credit to Belgium, adding that it would be a good learning experience for his team. He said that they had failed to make sure of victory, via a second goal, and had paid for that. Pearce acknowledged that his players were young and you did not have a guarantee of a good performance at that age.
Dury would be happy with his night’s work; Babibanga was a constant threat to England and in goal, Hoffenheim’s Koen Casteels showed why he was once ranked ahead of Thibaut Courtois at Genk. Beerschot’s Guillaume Francois impressed and El Kaddouri came on for a match-winning 30 minutes.
As for England, Kelly was solid throughout and, as the stronger team; they dominated proceedings for long periods of the game. Newcastle’s Sammy Ameobi sparkled before fading and more could have been expected from Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chelsea’s Josh McEachran. Having said that, they were the only two 18 year-olds to start the game. Their time will come and judging by the way McEachran handled the press after the match, he’s intelligent and well-rounded enough to have a top career.
Table to-date, England and Belgium have played five games, others four.
England 12, points; Belgium 8; Norway 7; Iceland 3; Azerbaijan 1.