England Under-20s must beat China and hope results go their way if they are to reach the final of the Toulon Tournament.
After putting together 11 games unbeaten under Aidy Boothroyd’s tutelage, England came unstuck against an impressive Mexico side.
England U20s 1-2 Mexico
Stade de Lattre-de-Tassigny, Aubagne
Wednesday 3 June 2015
Mexico now top Group B on seven points, with one game remaining against second-place Ivory Coast on Friday. England have four points and need the Africans to win that tie, while the Young Lions must record a handsome victory against China.
England had looked good value for their half-time lead thanks to another opportunistic strike from Sunderland winger Duncan Watmore.
But Mexico made a double change at the break and hit back immediately, first through Marco Bueno, before Zuniga’s powerful shot deflected in off the otherwise impressive Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Kortney Hause.
After playing their first two games in Toulon, England stepped out in Aubagne under sultry sunshine and lengthening shadows, taking on Mexico in a meeting of arguably the two most-feared sides in Group B.
Mexico, on the other hand, were a shadow of the side that had brushed aside China, and allowed Chuba Akpom the freedom of their half after just seven minutes.
The Arsenal striker coasted through unopposed but tried to pick his spot past keeper Manuel Lajud and his opponent guessed right.
An England goal always looked on the cards, though, and Watmore delivered the opener in remarkably similar fashion to the way he scored against Morocco.
Chasing a loose pass down the middle, he outstripped the covering Mexico defence and nodded the ball beyond Lajud, who had dashed off his line.
The ball rolled into the empty net, giving Watmore a second goal in three games for the U20s.
England might have added to their advantage before the break, when Watmore set Demarai Gray clear along the right flank. The Birmingham winger crossed deep for Akpom, but the Arsenal striker attempted a spectacular first-time finish and fired wide.
However impressive England had been, they were not prepared for Mexico’s transformation after the break.
Armando Zamorano and Angel Zaldivar started to buzz between the lines, and within two minutes they were level.
Daniel Hernandez found space on the left and dug out a superb cross to Bueno, who powered home a header from the penalty spot past Sunderland stopper Jordan Pickford, via the crossbar.
Sensing the game running away from England, Boothroyd made a triple substitution, introducing Callum Robinson, Lewis Baker and Rolando Aarons to the fray.
But Mexico continued to look dangerous and went close through Martin Zuniga, who shimmied in from the left wing and shot, only to be well-blocked by the retreating Hause.
Zuniga had his revenge two minutes later, drifting in again and firing a fearsome shot towards goal, only for Hause to deflect past Pickford.
England had two more chances to equalise, first through Robinson and then Grimes, but Mexico held out and will be favourites to progress to the final.
England U20s (4-3-3): 13 Jordan Pickford (Sunderland); 2 Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 5 Jack Stephens (Swindon Town), 15 Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 3 Moses Odubajo (Brentford); 17 John Swift (Chelsea), 4 Harrison Reed (Southampton), 7 Matty Grimes (captain; Swansea City); 20 Duncan Watmore (Sunderland), 10 Chuba Akpom (Arsenal), 14 Demarai Gray (Birmingham City).
Substitutes: 8 Lewis Baker (Chelsea) for Swift 61; 11 Rolando Aarons (Newcastle United) for Gray 61; 16 Callum Robinson (Aston Villa) for Watmore 61; 9 James Wilson (Manchester United) for Iorfa 77.
Subs not used: 1 Christian Walton (Brighton & Hove Albion), 6 Baily Cargill (AFC Bournemouth), 12 Isaac Hayden (Arsenal), 18 Jamie Hanson (Derby County), 19 Kwame Thomas (Derby County).
Goals: Watmore 15.
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Mexico (3-4-3): 1 Manuel Lajud; 2 Carlos Guzman (captain), 3 Luis Lopez; 4 Jordan Silva; 13 Luis Solorio; 13 Kevin Escamilla, 7 Jonathan Espericueta, 17 Daniel Hernandez; 9 Marco Bueno, 19 Martin Zuniga, 11 Carlos Cisneros.
Substitutes: 18 Armando Zamorano for Solorio HT; 10 Angel Zaldivar for Espericueta HT; 20 Alfonso Tamay for Daniel Hernandez 67.
Substitutes not used: 12 Luis Cardenas, 5 Bernardo Hernandez, 8 Uvaldo Luna, 15 Pedro Hernandez, 16 Michael Perez.
Goals: Bueno 42, Zuniga 70.
Head coach: Raul Guttierez.
Referee: Denis Higler (France).