Southgate: Toulon Tournoi too good to miss for Under-21s

Thursday 05 May 2016
England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate

England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate is looking forward to seeing all of his players in action at the Toulon Tournament later this month.

The head coach will take a squad to the south of France for the annual competition, where the Three Lions will face four initial games against Portugal, Paraguay, Japan and Guinea.

And with the matches coming thick and fast together against four varied styles of football, it means he will get to make sure all of his players get crucial minutes under their belt.

Toulon Tournament 2016

44th Edition
18-29 May 2016
Toulon, France

England v Portugal
6.30pm, Thursday 19 May
Stade Leo LaGrange, Toulon

England v Guinea
6.45pm, Monday 23 May
Stade De Lattre, Aubagne

England v Paraguay
6.45pm, Wednesday 25 May
Stade Antoine-Baptiste, Six Fours

England v Japan
4.15pm, Friday 27 May
Stade Leo Lagrange, Toulon

The Final and Third-Fourth Place
Sunday 29 May
Parc des Sports, Avignon

"It’s very different to a European Championship and it’s the only opportunity that we get to play teams from the rest of the world in this age group,” said Southgate, who led his squad to a fourth-place finish at the tournament two years ago.

"We’re hoping that some of our players could be playing in a World Cup in two years, so to play a South American team, an Asian team and an African team will be a really good experience for them. 

"The slight unknown at the moment is how each nation will approach it. Some are preparing for an Olympic games, which will be U23s and others aren’t, so until you get there you’re not quite sure of the strength of each squad.

"There’s also a slight physical challenge in our planning, because the games are 40-minute halves as opposed to 45 and we have a few days break after our first game.

"But it’s a schedule which means we will definitely use all of our squad and that’s one of the guarantees of it.

"We’ve also got several lads, who have not had an opportunity to get enough game time with us so I’m looking forward to being able to have a look at some different players."

Current U21s captain James Ward-Prowse scored against Brazil in Toulon 2014

The trip to Toulon brings the current campaign to a close, after enjoying an unbeaten record in Euro Qualifying which sees them in pole position to reach next summer’s Finals in Poland.

But given the nature of international weeks since the squad first came together as a group, this trip represents the first time Southgate and his staff can work with the players over a longer period of time.

"I think if you speak to any of the boys who were involved in the last campaign, they came together a lot closer as a group when they spent that time away,” he added.

"But they also all had the chance to play and felt a bigger part of the group after those games, so their confidence grows and they view themselves in the team and squad on merit a bit more so it has an important part to play in that.

"You get to play out the last 20 minutes of matches in quick succession whether you’re chasing a game, trying to control a game or keeping hold of a result that you’ve got.

"That’s the period in any football match where you can learn as much as anything, and to be able to go through that scenario five times in quick succession was a real benefit for us when I last took a team there two years ago.

"For the U21 team, I think it’s a really important experience."

By Nicholas Veevers