Having not played since competing in Thailand in March and knowing that they’d never before automatically qualified for the Promotional Finals, England were considered an outside chance. However, with a new team line-up and having the benefit of several training camps Head Coach Terry Bowes was confident of his team saying “We have a very strong line up and have been working hard together in the training camps. We fully intend to show Europe exactly what we’re made of.” That’s exactly what they did!
Undefeated Division B Champions!
Friday saw England play Andorra in their opening group game and they secured a comfortable 4-2 victory having lead 4-0 early in Period 2. On Saturday they challenged Moldova coming out on top 2-1 only conceding a goal in the last minute. This secured them qualification to the Promtional Final but it was the game against Czech Republic on Sunday that saw the lion heart of the England Team in their quest to win the group and secure England’s first ever tournament success. England were denied the lead when a Dean Blake free kick was disallowed for encroachment by players from both teams. The Czech Republic took the lead with less than 5 minutes to go in the second period but Mark Corbett gave the boys the much needed equaliser early in period 3 before a subsequent harsh ruling saw a red card for Temple reducing the England team down to 4 players for the next 2 minutes of play. Just when it looked as though they were going to hold out Stejskal put the Czechs back ahead. This didn’t deter England and with just over a minute to spare a spectacular goal from keeper Webb saw the teams tied 2-2.
Beach Soccer rules state that there must be a winner but whilst 3 minutes of extra time saw plenty of chances, no goals were scored and so the match went to penalties, which in Beach Soccer are immediate sudden death. The home 1000+ French crowd were fully behind England to raise the atmosphere in the stadium and the tension in the air was palpable!
Mitch saves the DAY
First to take was Czech Chalupa who scored followed by England Captain Matt Evans who equalised. With the Czechs missing their second penalty England had a chance to win but Mark Mitchell just dragged his shot wide of the post. Each team continued to score until Hurab’s kick was saved by Webb giving seasoned professional Mitch Day the opportunity to win the tournament for England. Day didn’t disappoint and England triumphed earning England the glory of Tournament Champions and a place in the history books!
England now go through to the EBSL Superfinal in Torredembarra, Spain in August with the aim of securing promotion to Division A to compete against the elite Beach Soccer teams in Europe.
Following the game Head Coach Terry Bowes said “I really want to congratulate my players on creating a bit of beach soccer history being the first England Beach Soccer team to automatically qualify for the promotion finals. Also the amazing staff and people who help us and the players who are not here but have played their part in the past.”
David Jones England Manager said “Winning our first ever tournament was essential given the extra commitment that has been given to the men’s national team this year. EBS hopes to be able to continue with an increased commitment to all the national teams over the next few years as England wants and needs to become an elite Beach Soccer nation. This victory can only help us to raise awareness of the sport in our football crazy country.”
England now look to continue raising the profile of the sport here in the UK continuing with the National Tour (next location Isle of Wight, Sunday 7th July) and hope to encourage greater sponsorship and support.