England’s Young Lions suffered that familiar tournament rite of passage as their home European Championship campaign came to a sudden halt with penalty shoot-out defeat to Holland.
Folarin Balogun was the unfortunate one – and there always must be one – who saw his spot-kick repelled by keeper Joey Koorevaar after the two sides had converted 11 perfect penalties.
It brings to an end an adventure on home soil that earned them the warm applause of a near 8,000 crowd in Chesterfield, but Holland are the ones to advance to Sunday’s final against Italy.
Arvin Appiah (right) is challenged by Holland’s Ramon Hendriks (left) in Euro U17 semi-final
Quinten Maduro (right) watches on during the match at the Proact Stadium
The English group will learn from the ever-bitter experience of defeat in this manner. As a nation, we have been here so many times before.
The shoot-out heartache followed a compelling game that saw plenty of chances for both sides but finished goalless. In the end, it was Steve Cooper’s side who were left to rue not converting the openings that fell their way.
But Holland, arguably second-best overall, will be favourites to win the trophy when they meet Italy in Rotherham.
It was immediately apparent the Dutch would present a superior challenge to anything England had faced so far in the tournament, both technically and physically.
Gareth Southgate watches on at Chesterfield as the Young Lions played out a 0-0 draw
England: Ashby-Hammond; Daley-Campbell, Ogbeta, Alese, Saka; Daly, Garner (c); Appiah, Anjorin (Dixon-Bonner 65), Tulloch (Balogun 74); Duncan (John-Jules 69)
Substitutes not used: Dewhurst (GK); Crowe, Coyle
Coach: Steve Cooper
Holland: Korenaar; J. Maduro, Van Gelderen, Mamengi, Hendriks; Q. Maduro, Burger; Summerville (Tavsan 59), Redan (c), Ihattaren; Brobbey (Gravenberch 64)
Substitutes not used: Bakker (GK); Musmapa, Franken, Thomas, Lake, Goudmijn
Coach: Kees Van Wonderern
Referee: Horatiu Fesnic (Romania)
They had stormed through their group with three wins from three, duffing old enemies Germany 3-0 and then Spain 2-0 in the process.
Though they nearly came unstuck in their quarter-final with the Republic of Ireland, prevailing only on penalties having been denied by heroic resistance, there was a stature and presence about them.
That was evident in the game’s initial bite, with the lanky Feyenoord midfielder Wouter Burger unafraid to put in a couple of early reducers.
Indeed, there was blood spilt as England keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond took a point-blank Liam van Gelderen strike right on the nose, returning to action with the aid of the physio’s smelling salts.
Holland bossed the early exchanges, with Mohammed Ihattaren testing whether Ashby-Hammond was fully alert by forcing him into a parry from 25 yards.
But once England figured out they could get beyond the Dutch back line by utilising the pace of Bukayo Saka, Arvin Appiah, Faustino Anjorin and others, they started to make headway.
With captain James Garner and Matthew Daly playing the disrupt and destroy role in central midfield, England sprung forward and the chances began to flow.
Neat build-up by Anjorin inside the box teed up Saka but the left-back lifted his shot too high, before Vontae Daley-Campbell fizzed in a low cross that Bobby Duncan flicked into the grateful arms of Koorevaar.
An even better chance arrived five minutes before half-time. Chelsea tyro Anjorin danced his way past three tackles on a diagonal dart to the edge of the box and his eventual shot struck the post and bounced agonisingly out.
Duncan, who scored England’s opener in the quarter-final win over Norway on Sunday, then drilled a low free-kick wide of the mark.
On the stroke of half-time, Saka slid a ball across the six-yard box that was just begging to be put away. But somehow it evaded unmarked pair Duncan and Appiah at the back post in a near-miss reminiscent of a certain Paul Gascoigne in another European Championship semi-final held on these shores.
England’s challenge was to keep up their supremacy and Ihattaren served notice shortly after the break that Holland wouldn’t submit readily. His shot was turned aside by Ashby-Hammond.
PSV Eindhoven man Ihattaren then tricked his way into a fine shooting position before angling his shot across goal.
England neutered the threat with considered possession of their own and Anjorin dug out a shot on the turn inside the box but scooped it wide.
In the process, Anjorin appeared to pick up a knock and went off shortly afterwards. Rayhaan Tulloch followed him to the treatment table in the final minutes, putting more strain on England, but they negotiated their way to penalties.
Just. Ihattaren was there, at the back post unmarked, but couldn’t turn home a cross with virtually the last kick, much to England’s relief.
The England U17 team that started the semi-final against Holland and lost on penalties
Head coach of the England U17’s Steven Cooper watches on as his side crash out on penalties