England and France suffered 1-0 defeats to Switzerland and Denmark respectively in their opening 2021 European Under-21 Championship fixtures on Thursday.
Switzerland were appearing at the tournament for a first time in a decade and edged a narrow win in Group D thanks to Dan Ndoye’s fortuitous second-half strike.
England have failed to make it past the group stage in four of the past five tournaments and have left themselves with an uphill struggle to secure one of the two spots for the knockout phase.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side created precious few goalscoring opportunities with a long-range attempt from Tom Davies and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s free-kick their best attempts, only once hitting the target.
Ndoye sealed the win for Switzerland 13 minutes from time as the ball rebounded off his standing foot then looped over England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
6 – England have failed to win their opening group stage match at any of their last six U21 European Championship tournaments (D2 L4), failing to score in their opening match in four of their last five. Anticlimactic. pic.twitter.com/3lMojxe5AQ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 25, 2021
Elsewhere in that pool, Portugal earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Croatia after substitute Fabio Viera scored the only goal of the game.
Portugal had the best of the chances with Croatia goalkeeper Adrian Semper forced to make three saves before Viera came off the bench to net the winner.
France, who reached the semi-finals of the 2019 tournament, were left to rue missed chances in their defeat to Denmark as Amine Gouiri was twice denied and Boubacar Kamara curled wide.
Denmark had just 34.3 per cent of the possession and only three shots but crucially scored in the 75th minute when Anders Dreyer rounded Alban Lafont before scoring following a superb defence-splitting pass from Jacob Bruun Larsen.
Russia top Group C, though, after an emphatic 4-1 win over Iceland that included an impressive display by 17-year-old debutant Arsen Zakharyan.
Fedor Chalov, who finished with three assists from four chances created, opened the scoring from the penalty spot after Zakharyan had been tripped.
Nayair Tiknizyan notched Russia’s second and then Zakharyan scored the pick of the goals with a fine sole strike on the stroke of half-time before Denis Makarov added the fourth with a low finish.
Sveinn Aron Gudjohnsen, son of ex-Chelsea and Barcelona forward Eidur, headed in a consolation goal for Iceland with only their second attempt just before the hour mark.