The second game of England Under-19’s European Championships came against a Ukrainian side who were not to be underestimated as they pulled off a shock victory in their first game against the much-fancied France.
Sunderland academy product Elliot Embleton kept his place in the starting eleven after his man of the match performance against Turkey, and yet again showed why Jack Ross should be seriously considering inserting him into our senior squad this season.
Throughout the early stages England looked comfortable and controlled the pace of the game with crisp passing and patience on the ball, despite Ukraine’s organised defending stifling the young lions.
But it was England who struck first as Middlesbrough’s James Tavernier got on the end of a quality corner delivery from Elliot Embleton, capitalising on a mistake from the Ukrainian goalkeeper, to strike low into the net.
However, despite the good start from England they went in at half time level as Ukrainian striker Supriaha provided a very well finished equaliser on the 39th minute.
Embleton’s role in this England side is very similar to Jesse Lingard or Dele Alli’s role for England at the World Cup this summer - playing on the right side of a midfield three (or sometimes four when Ben Brereton dropped deep on the opposite side) but given the license to roam wherever he wants and bomb forwards whenever we have the ball to support our strikers.
He was also expected to get back in support defensively, however due to he and the other midfielders commiting forwards so often Ukraine were able to break quickly at our back line and on another day (or with a bit more quality) they could have punished this England side in the second half.
That said, England’s build up play was promising and our defenders were athletic and intelligent enough to cope with Ukraine’s attacks.
Embleton’s place in this England side is so important as he always offers a route forwards from midfield. His ability to use the ball with both feet and run at defenders means he can pick up the ball anywhere and, often in this game, receive it under pressure. He also joins in attacks quickly giving his team mates options and defenders problems with his runs in behind the back line.
If Sunderland are to throw caution to the wind and adopt a more attacking style this season then Embleton is ready to thrive in that sort of a system.
One part of his game we’d like to see him improve however is just taking care of the ball a bit more once it reaches him. On a couple of occasions he lost the ball when receiving it under pressure from two or three Ukrainian defenders and although it can be argued his teammates shouldn’t be passing it to him in those situations, adding this to his game would really set him apart from the rest.
The game itself was a good test for the youngsters against a well-organised Ukraine side who knew their strengths and played to them well. Elliot Embleton looked bright again but just couldn’t find the key to unlock a stubborn Ukrainian defence.
Next up for the young lions is a big test against France where they won’t have as much possession as they did in their first two games meaning Embleton and co will have to show another side to their game to emerge victorious from that one.
You can catch that game on Sky Sports Football on Monday 23rd July at 4:30pm.