They’ve done it- England’s under 20s have won their third straight Toulon title after coming from behind to defeat a talented Mexico side 2-1.
The Toulon isn’t the biggest tournament England will play this summer (apparently there’s something going on in Russia next week) but it another important milestone for England’s youngsters on the road to next summer’s Euro Under 21 Championship.
England’s Football wasn’t always the fluent attacking play we saw at the World Under 17s last autumn or indeed at the Toulon 2 summers ago but their forward power and defensive resilience ultimately saw them home for a 6th youth trophy in 2 years.
England started the tournament with a fortunate late win over China thanks to Tammy Abraham’s last gasp strike. They then held Mexico and thrashed Qatar 4-0 to ensure a semi-final berth before coming from behind to beat Scotland 3-1 to set up a final rematch with Mexico.
The Mexicans made a lightning start and Alvarado struck after just a minute to give them the early lead. They had opportunities to extend their advantage but England gradually asserted themselves and their first meaningful attack saw a long throw deceive the ‘keeper and fall to Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry who made no mistake.
Scenting blood England pushed for a second and 4 minutes later Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah broke free down the left and neatly set up Kieran Dowell whose fizzing shot found the bottom corner for 2-1.
In the second half Mexico pressed but England proved too well organised and ‘keeper Freddie Woodman was rarely troubled whilst Abraham missed a glorious chance to double England’s lead. But England held on and claimed their 3rd straight title in the South of France.
Whilst their football wasn’t always great this was an impressive result for an under 21 side missing the likes of Ademola Lookman and Dominic’s Solanke & Calvert-Lewin with England resisting the temptation to promote up from the younger sides the likes of Sancho, Foden & Mount.
Stand out performers in Toulon included Fry in defence and 2017 penalty hero Ronaldo Vierra who provided a solid base in midfield not to mention the goal of the tournament against Qatar. Further forward U-20 World Cup Star Dowell provided guile and craft whilst Adam Armstrong had a fine tournament up front and Abraham notched 3 goals. But the star of the show was Nketiah who provided pace and incision in key moments in the semi and final.
Whilst the Toulon is not on par with the Euro U-21 Championships it is a tournament in which England have a rich history, this being their 7th title and with 2 of England’s current World Cup squad being part of the 2016 Toulon winning side the usefulness of the tournament is clear.
Youth tournament success won’t be paramount in the thoughts of England fans this summer but this tournament has again provided us with a glimpse of England’s potential for long after the World Cup circus departs Moscow next month.
Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)