England Under 21s clinically dispatched Qatar in their final Toulon Tournament group game but had to wait to secure qualification for the semi-finals.
The result, however convincing, was not quite enough for Aidy Boothroyd’s men to secure automatic progress: they finished level with Mexico on goal difference but scored one fewer goal.
Second-half strikes from Ronaldo Vieira, Tammy Abraham and Adam Armstrong, added to an earlier own goal, looked to be enough for the reigning champions.
And it was, as the Young Lions eventually went through as a best second-placed team and will now face Scotland in Aubagne on Wednesday evening.
- Toulon Tournament
- Friday 1 June
- By Tom Harle
Boothroyd shuffled his pack for the final Group A assignment, the return of Adam Armstrong and Tammy Abraham signalling attacking intent.
Tom Pearce’s razor-sharp set-piece delivery handed Abraham two early chances to open the scoring but the striker volleyed the first wide and couldn’t keep the second down.
Abraham showed great awareness to nick the ball from under the feet of hesitant Qatar keeper Shehab Mamdouh yet found himself jostled away from goal by a defender.
The Young Lions surged ahead on 37 minutes, another Pearce inswinger proving too tricky to deal with as Lukas Nmecha’s downward header was nodded into his own net by Suhail.
Pearce was within a whisker of a first England goal in first-half injury time, his wicked curler cannoning off the left-hand upright and dropping to safety with Mamdouh stranded.
Vieira doubled the lead in style in the 52nd minute when won possession in midfield, bounded into space and planted a dipping strike into the far corner from 25 yards.
Boothroyd’s men sensed their opportunity, striking again within two minutes when Abraham tapped home a second of the tournament at the back post from Armstrong’s driven cross.
England, continually probing, drew another save from Mamdouh as Armstrong clipped a ball to the far post and Nmecha dived to plant a firm header on target but at the keeper’s body.
A fourth goal took them level with Mexico on goal difference, the influential Armstrong curling a loose ball into the roof of the net with no Qatar challenge forthcoming.
The introduction of Kieran Dowell as Boothroyd’s third substitute only gave them more momentum and he darted into the box to draw Mamdouh into a low save with his legs.
Armstrong forced the custodian into two flying saves, first denying his well-struck low drive and then an outstretched leg flicking the forward’s close-range effort to safety.
Qatar were again indebted to Mamdouh, who pulled out a stupendous save to keep it at 4-0 when Dael Fry watched his looping header scooped out of the top corner.
England: 13 Aaron Ramsdale (AFC Bournemouth). 2 Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), 5 Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), 8 Tom Davies (Everton), 9 Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), 10 Ronaldo Vieira (Leeds United), 11 Adam Armstrong (Newcastle United), 12 Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), 18 Tom Pearce (Leeds United), 19 Edward Nketiah (Arsenal), 20 Lukas Nmecha (Manchester City)
Substitutes: 4 Lewis Cook (AFC Bournemouth) for Davies 45, 14 Jay Da Silva (Chelsea) for Pearce 45, 7 Kieran Dowell (Nottingham Forest) for Nmecha 72, 17 Callum Connolly (Everton) for Abraham 78
Yellow cards: Armstrong 32
Substitutes not used: 1 Freddy Woodman (Newcastle United), 3 Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur), 6 Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), 15 Ezri Konsa (Charlton Athletic), 16 Hamza Choudhury (Leicester City)
Goals: Ahmed og 36, Vieira 53, Abraham 56, Armstrong 67
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd