England faced up against Israel in Slovakia to compete to be the U19 European Champions. Finals are rarely great games and so proved to be the case in this match. A combination of nerves and poor weather conditions (extreme heat and wind) meant it is likely neither team would have been overly pleased with their performance.
After dominating the first half and grabbing a goal Israel had a good foothold in the game. England, however, fought back in the second half with Callum Doyle scoring an equaliser. They grew in confidence from here and started to attack more but the game remained tight into extra time until England scored again through Chukwuemeka. The game became very stretched at this point as the players became more tired and Israel pushed for a goal which allowed England to counter and Aaron Ramsey scored a third to put the game to bed.
- 1 – Ready for the first team
- 2 – Good, potential to be first team
- 3 – Decent, could make first team squad
- 4 – Decent potential, unlikely to make it to first team
- 5 – Unlikely to make first team
- Nationality: English/Nigerian/Austrian
- Age: 18
- Date of birth: 20/10/2003
- Current club: Aston Villa
- Career: Aston Villa
- Position: Central Midfield
- Secondary position: Attacking Midfield
- Preferred foot: Right
Carney Chukwuemeka, from a technical perspective, is a very elegant footballer. He consistently receives the ball on his back foot which enables him to evade opponents easier. He is bipedal and comfortable using either foot, or both interchangeably, to dribble out of tight situations.
Chukwuemeka is positive, and at times very vertical, on the ball. His ball carrying to take his team up the pitch is excellent as is his progressive passing. When carrying the ball Chukwuemeka is often able to break the opposition’s defensive lines particularly in transition from defence to attack. This makes him a brilliant counter-attacking threat. His passing is crisp and thoughtful. By this I mean he regularly passes in a way that is best for his teammates to receive.
From a tactical point of view, Chukwuemeka is very switched on. He was impressive in his anticipation and reading of the game. Out of possession, he positions himself well. Close enough to the opposition that he can to apply pressure immediately should they receive the ball, but not so tight he is easily turned and taken out the game.
Furthermore, he is diligent at tracking the player he is marking when the opposition breaks up the pitch. At times, in the build-up, Chukwuemeka’s marker would try to drop deep to pull the youngster out of position, but he was disciplined in his role and never fell for these traps.
A final point on his positioning out of possession is in relation to winning the ball back. Chukwuemeka has an uncanny ability to get himself in the right position to make a tackle and break up an opposition attack. Put simply, he is really good at “sticking a foot in”.
In possession, Chukwuemeka is equally clever and naturally picks up good spaces between the lines. By hanging back slightly he often finds himself in dangerous areas with plenty of time on the ball to have a shot or continue the play by finding a pass.
When England were on the attack Chukwuemeka, in this match, could often be found lurking around the edge of the box ready to pounce on any second balls or slide home any cutbacks that came his way. By following through on one such run is how he scored his goal. After a brilliant cross by Harvey Vale, more on that later, Chukwuemeka could not miss and bundled the ball over the goal line with his chest.
Based on this performance, it is clear Carney Chukwuemeka is, from a physical perspective, ready for men’s first team football. He is both very strong, so not pushed off the ball easily, and has great pace. He is a great runner with a combination of strong acceleration and stamina that saw him continuing to perform “lung bursting” runs deep into extra time.
Linking in with his impressive physicality is the fact he seems to have extendable legs, like Kante, which he can use to when the ball or opponent is just seeming to run away from him, he can bring things back to his control.
Carney Chukwuemeka was noticeably confident throughout the match and was calm when facing pressure and was willing to receive the ball in tight situations to relieve his teammates.
The only slight on his performance from a psychological point of view was the yellow card he picked up at the end of extra time after reacting to a challenge. Considering the game was all but over at this point and he was a minute away from celebrating with his teammates this was an unnecessary outburst. At the end of the day, it was just frustration boiling over but it is something to look out for in the future as opponents will look to wind him up if they know he is susceptible to behaving in this way.
Rating – 1
Carney Chukwuemeka is a huge talent, and on the day was my man of the match. In my opinion, he is ready both physically and technically for first team professional football and he should look at this season as an opportunity to break through, whether it be at Aston Villa, or a loan move elsewhere. Stylistically, he bears great similarities to Jude Bellingham. The youngster who has taken the Bundesliga by storm is currently ahead of Chukwuemeka on the development path, but it should be remembered Jude has also played far more first team football. Should Chukwuemeka have a breakthrough season and pick up enough minutes – there may be talk about England having another superstar on their hands.
- Nationality: English
- Age: 18
- Date of birth: 11/09/2003
- Current club: Chelsea
- Career: Chelsea
- Position: Attacking Midfielder
- Secondary position: Left Back
- Preferred foot: Left
Harvey Vale’s performance in the final was an interesting one to report on. He played the vast majority of normal time on the left of the 4 in Ian Foster’s 3-4-2-1 system which was a predominantly defensive role. Then, after subs around the 73rd minute mark, Vale was moved to the right-hand side as part of the 2. This was a complete switch of course with his duties now being primarily attacking.
In his original left wing back role, Vale kept things fairly simple and executed what he did fairly well. The caveat to this is that you could tell he was having to remain quite focussed as he is a more natural attacking player and doesn’t yet have the defensive instincts some other players have to draw on.
When moved to a more attacking position, Vale was able to be more creative and showcased some incisive passing in a bid to break the deadlock. While taking responsibility for his team’s attack in these moments he was careful not to take unnecessary risks or leave his team exposed to an Israeli counterattack.
He has an excellent first touch which was on display when he had to control several long diagonals under pressure. Vale doesn’t take many touches when on the ball and regularly just takes one or two before moving the ball and keeping the momentum of the attack.
While Vale is left-footed and uses that when he can, he is not completely limited and does use his right to perform simple actions such as a short pass when need be. That being said, he has not quite developed the same ability as Chukwuemeka to use either interchangeably going off this match.
Harvey Vale displayed excellent tactical ability in this match in a variety of circumstances. During the build-up he was consistent at losing his marker and conscious to keep moving to avoid any cover shadows being created by the Israeli press. As a defensive wingback he kept the width well while being aware enough to rotate in-field when appropriate. Vice versa, when moved into the attack, Vale mainly occupied the right half space which allowed Brooke Norton-Cuffy space to exploit out wider.
In attack Vale picked up spaces between the oppositions defensive and midfield lines with ease and it was this, combined with his great technical ability, which brought about England’s second goal. With Israel set up comfortably in their block, Vale picked up the ball with time and space in the right half space he had made his own since moving further up and put in a beautiful cross for Chukwuemeka who had an easy finish. The deep cross, from an area Kevin De Bruyne has assisted from on notable occasions, found its way between the two centre backs and bounced right in front of the goalkeeper before his teammate finished the job. This goal was a fitting example of both Harvey Vale’s tactical ability, to find the space to perform the cross, and technical ability, to execute it to perfection.
From a physical perspective Vale did not look that fast, particularly in the first half. However, after watching him in a more forward position, I believe this may have been down to being very conscious of his defensive duties and aware of the huge space he would leave behind him if he did go on a run, rather than a complete incapability to perform such a feat.
What I can say definitely about his running is that he does have impressive stamina and routinely was able to get himself back and attempt to regain the ball from his opponent again if he had failed the first time. He showed true tenacity in this regard and was not led down by his physical capabilities.
While not appearing hugely strong, Vale was never pushed off the ball while defending and is certainly not weak. However, if he were to bulk up further it would aid his ability to be more aggressive in his defending.
One thing that should be remembered for both players when considering them from a psychological standpoint in this match is that it was a final. Finals come with added nerves and pressure that wouldn’t exist in the vast majority of matches these boys will play in the rest of their careers.
Vale did not crumble in such an environment and carried out a relatively unfamiliar role, well. Furthermore, as captain he had further responsibilities for his teammates and handled the occasion well. England worked hard for each other as a team and dug deep in extra time. How much of this was down to Vale is hard to pinpoint but as captain he should be allowed some credit for the culture and attitude which was on display.
Rating – 2
Harvey Vale put in a really good performance in this match and one that, when he looks back on, he can be proud of. While it was not the most eye-catching it should be noted he was playing out of his preferred position and also changed completely where he was operating going into extra time. He has the ability to make the Chelsea first team in the upcoming years but whether he gets the chance to make this a reality is another question. There is little doubt in my mind however, that Vale goes on to have a successful football career, wherever that may be.