A lacklustre England Under-21s suffered a nightmare start to Euro 2021 with a 1-0 defeat by Switzerland. The Nice striker Dan Ndoye’s 77th-minute winner decided the Group D game in Koper, Slovenia, on Thursday.
Bastien Toma hit a post for Switzerland and Andi Zeqiri was denied by Aaron Ramsdale in a deserved win for Mauro Lustrinelli’s side.
The extended tournament means the top two from the groups will qualify for the quarter-finals in May but Aidy Boothroyd’s men face an uphill battle with games against Portugal on Sunday and Croatia next Wednesday.
They will have to improve on this performance, during which Lloyd Kelly headed their best chance wide in the first half.
Switzerland lost only once in qualifying from Group Two, finishing behind France on goal difference, to reach the finals for the first time in 10 years and they gave England the first scare after 14 minutes.
It was of England’s own making as Ben Godfrey gifted the ball to Toma who fed Zeqiri but the Brighton forward shot too close to Ramsdale with just the goalkeeper to beat.
A minute later Tom Davies swept over from 20 yards and Callum Hudson-Odoi curled wide soon after but Switzerland, driven by the impressive Toma, had gained a grasp of the game.
England dominated the early possession but Switzerland had the better chances and Ramsdale turned Ndoye’s drive behind before Zeqiri headed wide after 28 minutes.
Kelly headed off target five minutes later but England struggled to find any serious attacking rhythm against disciplined opponents. Boothroyd’s side also continued to give Switzerland openings and they escaped five minutes after the break.
Davies wasted possession and, when Jérémy Guillemenot crossed, the onrushing Toma hit a post from 10 yards.
Although Hudson-Odoi’s free-kick was turned wide by Anthony Racioppi, England never got going in the second half. Ramsdale saved Kastriot Imeri’s low effort but Switzerland grabbed a deserved winner when Imeri laid the ball off for Ndoye and the striker, despite slipping as he shot, looped an effort from the edge of the area into the top corner.