OLOMOUC/UHERSKE HRADISTE: Sweden and Portugal progressed to the semi-finals of UEFA U21 Euro after the closing-minutes drama of a 1-1 draw in Group B in Moravia.
Portugal’s reward for topping the table will be a semi-final against Germany in Olomouc while Sweden head for Prague and a Nordic neighbours’ duel with Denmark. They do so thanks to an 89th-minute goal from substitute Simon Tibbling which squared a strike shortly before from Gonzalo Paciencia.
Sweden ended on four points just like Italy – who beat England 3-1 in Olomouc – but even though Hakan Ericson’s young men had an inferior goal difference they had the prioritised head-to-head advantage provided by their opening victory over the Azzurri.
England were not only eliminated but, through their failure to clinch even second place in the group, killed off the lingering hopes of their Czech hosts to rescue an Olympic play-off shot.
Gareth Southgate’s team began positively and will rue Danny Ings’s inability to convert a fine goalscoring chance at 0-0. England went close again when the impressive Harry Kane saw a powerful effort well saved.
However Italy then struck twice in two minutes through Andrea Belotti and Marco Benassi. The latter headed a third late in the second half before Nathan Redmond struck an England consolation.
“All the teams in this tournament have made defensive mistakes,” said Southgate, “but we were punished ruthlessly.”