England Under-21s were crowned Toulon Tournament champions on Sunday, after a 2-1 win over hosts France in Avignon.
A dominant display from Gareth Southgate’s team saw them lift the Toulon title for the first time since 1994 and it hopefully won’t be the last time we see a Three Lions side taste glory across the Channel this summer.
Goals from Lewis Baker and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the first half did the damage against a physically strong French side, who just couldn’t find a way to really threaten England.
France 1-2 England
Sunday 29 May 2016
Parc des Sports, Avignon
Live on BT Sport
And the victory caps a good season for Southgate’s men, who have won nine of their 11 games this term and will renew their Euro Qualifying campaign in good spirits next September.
England set out their intentions from the off, controlling possession and troubling Les Bleus with some sharp attacking play and movement in midfield.
The lively start paid off too, as they took a deserved lead after just eight minutes, when captain James Ward-Prowse lifted a ball over the top for Baker.
The Chelsea man sprang the offside trap before nodding over Florian Escales and into the goal to register his fourth goal of the tournament and seal the top scorer accolade in the process.
France started to work their way back into the game and it took a timely clearance from Calum Chambers in the box to clear the danger after 22 minutes, when a nice move saw Olivier Kemen’s centre cause a few anxieties.
Jordan Pickford was then tested by a powerful drive from France winger Roli Peirera Da Sa, who cut in from the right and fired a left-footer at goal which the stung the hands of the Sunderland stopper but not enough to beat him.
The Three Lions celebrate victory in Toulon
But it was the Three Lions who doubled their advantage two minutes before the break, when Loftus-Cheek, named as player of the tournament after the game, nipped onto a pass into the box from Baker and lifted the ball over Escales to put his side in control.
The hosts made two early changes in the second half in a bid to claw themselves back into the game and one of those replacements Maximi D’Arpino tested Pickford again ten minutes after the re-start with a snap-shot from the edge of the box. Again, the Three Lions keeper was equal to it though.
If anything, England looked the more likely to add to their tally, with Nathan Redmond, Baker and Loftus-Cheek causing problems with their incisive play in the final third.
France made it interesting for the last three minutes though, after Abdou Diallo turned home from close range following a corner from the right to give them hope of salvaging a draw.
They couldn’t find a way through, as England bravely held on for the title to pass the baton to Roy Hodgson’s senior squad next month.
England Under-21s: 1 Jordan Pickford (Sunderland); 2 Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Waderers), 5 Calum Chambers (Arsenal), 6 Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 3 Matt Targett (Southampton); 4 Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea); 8 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) ( C), 12 Lewis Baker (Chelsea); 10 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea); 11 Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), 7 Duncan Watmore (Sunderland).
Substitutes: 17 John Swift (Chelsea) for Watmore 65, 15 Jack Stephens (Southampton) for Targett 80
Substitutes not used: 13 Angus Gunn (Manchester City), 9 Cauley Woodrow (Fulham), 14 Jack Grelish (Aston Villa), 16 Matt Grimes (Swansea City), 18 Rob Holding (Bolton Wanderers), 19 Kasey Palmer (Chelsea)
Head coach: Gareth Southgate
Goals: Lewis Baker 8, Ruben Loftus-Cheek 38
Cautions: Ruben Loftus-Cheek 65, John Swift 80,
France: 1 Florian Escales, 2 Alois Confais, 3 Moussa Niakhate, 4 Mouctar Diakhaby, 6 Olivier Kemen (C), 7 Roli Peirera De Sa, 13 Angelo Fulgini, 14 Brahim Konate, 15 Jonathan Bamba, 19 Abdou Diallo, 9 Sehrou Guirassy.
Substitutes: 11 Mximi D’Arpino for Fulgini 41, 10 Lys Mousset for Bamba 48, 18 Thomas Robinet for Peirera De Sa 59, 5 Dylan Batubatsika for Konate 68
Substitutes not used: 16 Bingourou Kamara,12 Sega Coulibaly, 17 Sebastien Salles Lamonge,
Head coach: Patrick Gonafalone.
Goals: Abdou Diallo 78
Cautions: Brahim Konate 55
Referee: Joao Silva (Portugal)
Assistant referees: Rui Martins & Nelson Cordeiro
Fourth official: Raduii Petrescu
Highlights: England U21s win the Toulon Tournament