England’s defence of the Under-19 European Championships came to a shuddering end on Monday afternoon as they lost 5-0 to France in Finland.
Ellery Balcombe kept his starting spot following Friday’s draw with Ukraine and was busy in the early stages as Paul Simpson’s side wilted under intense French pressure; the pick of the 18-year-old’s saves saw him somehow turn Michael Cuisance’s fierce drive over the bar from close range.
However, there was nothing the Brentford stopper could do as Nabil Alioui turned home the opener on the half-hour. It was 2-0 before the break as Myziane Maolida converted from close range. England almost grabbed a barely-deserved lifeline late in the half, but Elliot Embleton saw his shot from outside the box hit the bar.
The game was wrapped up in 13 minutes after the interval as Alioui grabbed a second before substitute Amine Gouiri struck twice in quick succession to make it five.
Despite the defeat, the action in Finland is not over yet for Ellery and the Young Lions as they now meet Norway, who finished third in Group A, in a play-off match on Thursday with the winner joining the four semi-finalists in qualifying for the 2019 U20 World Cup.
Highlights of the game, including Ellery's wondersave can be viewed here.