The second round of group fixtures in the European Under-19 Championships saw Gael Kakuta’s France all but progress to the Semi Finals.
It also left everything up in the air for the four remaining Chelsea players ahead of Saturday’s deciding pool matches.
For the hosts, things couldn’t be much better right now. A 4-1 mauling of Holland on Sunday was followed up yesterday by a five-star showing against Austria, as goals from Antoine Griezmann (2), Alex Lacazette (2) and Enzo Réale gave Francis Smerecki’s side a 5-0 victory and almost certainly secured a place in the final four.
Kakuta played the duration of the fixture and was one of the oustanding performers on the afternoon, earning praise from Smerecki in post-match interviews.
The 19 year-old playmaker provided the third goal, the first of Lacazette’s brace, and was reported later to have also impressed Laurent Blanc, the newly-appointed manager of Les Bleus.
Elsewhere, however, things are less certain. Jacob Mellis started for England against Holland but in what can only be described as a turgid, lifeless display, Noel Blake’s boys fell to a 1-0 defeat, leaving their chances of progression on a knife-edge.
The Three Lions will need to beat France on Saturday to stand a chance, but with the way the two teams have played so far, that appears to be a huge ask. Blake’s side, full of athletic players often playing out of position, includes an alarming number of defenders, and they struggled to create meaningful goal incident.
As a result, Mellis found it hard to make an impact and was unable to break forward from midfield, looking to add to his four goals in nine caps at this level.
Earlier in the day, Croatia and Italy shared a 0-0 draw which means one of the two are definitely out, and both have work to do if they’re to join Spain in the knockout rounds.
They beat their Iberian neighbours Portugal 2-1 to leave themselves on 6 points, three ahead of their beaten foes, with Italy and Croatia on one apiece.
Italy face Spain in their deciding fixture, leaving them the undoubtedly harder task of progressing, whilst Croatia must beat Portugal if they have hopes of playing on past this weekend.
It was a positive Wednesday for Matej Delač, who followed up an impressive tournament opener with a solid clean sheet, once again solidifying his position as the best player in his squad. He kept future team-mate Fabio Borini, the Azzurrini captain, but had to be rescued by Tomislav Glumac to prevent the young Italian forward’s effort from going over the line.
Jacopo Sala entered the match as a second half substitute and played half an hour, but he too was unable to find a way past Delač as Italy failed to score for a second consecutive outing.
They too will need to improve in front of goal if they are to extend their stay in Northern France.
Saturday’s matches take place from 3pm UK time onwards, and updates on how Chelsea’s quintet get on will be available on Twitter @chelseayouth at the same time as coverage of the Reserve team friendly against Crawley Town, which kicks off at the same time.
A full report on events will follow over the weekend.