[img_assist|nid=8744|title=Late loss|desc=England U21 v Spain, Phil Roper. Photo: Stanislas Brochier|link=node|align=left|width=220|height=146]England U21 Men battled back from two goals down to level their final match in the junior World Cup in India, but rivals Spain grabbed a late winner two minutes from time to end England’s hopes of ending on a high.
The result sees England finish 14th in the tourmament – a minor improvement on their 16th-place finish in the same event four years ago.
A strong second half performance from Jon Bleby’s side saw them hit back from two-nil behind to level with goals from Chris Proctor and Andrew Bull, but the Spanish snatched a late goal to clinch the win.
“After a poor first half, I couldn’t have asked for any more of the players in the second half,” said Bleby. “The first 20 minutes put us well behind, but it’s to the players’ credit that they fought back to level the game, and on another day we may well have taken the win.”
Spain hit the ground running and scored their first goal after just five minutes, Albert Beltran scoring after an attack down the left side was poorly defended by England.
And on 19 minutes they doubled their lead, Luis Mercade scoring with a hard flick from a 19th minute penalty corner. However, England hit back on 27 minutes.
An excellent run from the half way line by Phil Roper led to the ball finding Jonny Gall at the top of the D, and his shot was tipped in by Proctor to give England hope of a comeback shortly before half time.
Captain Andrew Bull stepped up for a penalty stroke on 45 minutes, awarded after a melee in the circle and a hard stick tackle, and after the referee’s decision was referred he scored the resulting shot.
England pushed forward in search of a winner, and had several chances which they just failed to get on the end of.
Ultimately, Spain took the win after Alejandro de Frutos scored from a 68th minute penalty corner. England pulled off their goalkeeper and threw on an extra man in search of a way back into the match, but the Spanish held firm.
Sunday sees the medal games in the tourmant with the final between Germany and France at 2.30pm UK time. All games are on the FIH YouTube channel. See http://events.fih.ch/new/competition/259 for full details.