England win Toulon Tournament for second successive season
Photo: AFP

England lifted the Toulon Tournament for the second consecutive year with their second-string under-20 side beating Ivory Coast on penalties on Saturday evening.

Last year’s victory was the first trophy for any England youth side in a number of decades. It has now proved to be the starting point for greater success on the international stage.

Young Lions win on penalties

To win it again is a superb achievement, particularly with a far weaker squad made up of fringe U20, U19 and U18 players due to the U20 World Cup and U19 European Championships.

The U20A side, as it has been dubbed, will face Venezuela in the U20 World Cup Final on Sunday morning in a fantastic weekend for English youth football.

David Brooks had given England first half lead

This is the first trophy to celebrate. Victory on penalties followed a 1-1 draw. David Brooks had given England a first-half lead with a powerful strike from the left side of the penalty area.

George Hirst missed a penalty in the final minute of first-half added time to double England’s lead, and the Young Lions later paid for it.

Ivory Coast deserved a draw over the 80 minutes. They got it. But only in the last second of normal time, Loba converting a penalty of their own calmly to take the final straight to a shootout at the State de Lattre, Aubagne.

After seven excellent penalties, Amani had his penalty saved by Schofield and gave England’s Ronaldo Vieira the chance to win it. He duly delivered.

Neil Dewsnip and coaches jumped around in a circle, and this young England group, made up mainly of under-18s celebrated a trophy.

It has been a tricky tournament for England. They came with very low expectations with the country’s finest at other, more prestigious, tournaments. But they’ve done exceptionally well, particularly due to other circumstances. The squad’s flight to France was cancelled in the British Airways IT crash.

With no flight, the Young Lions stayed at a hotel in Reading. A fire alarm in the middle of the night woke them and forced them out onto the street. The difficulties didn’t end there, though. Dewsnip and his youngsters’ hotel had a power cut in Toulon ahead of their semi-final against Scotland. They handled that perfectly, too, thrashing Scotland 3-0.

First of many for Young Lions?

The FA will be hoping this is the first of many youth tournament successes this summer. The under-21s are preparing for the Euros with a strong, if not complete, squad while the under-19s also begin their Euros campaign soon. The main attention will be on Sunday morning and the U20 World Cup Final, with that side only the second in England history to reach a global final at any age level.

Toulon Tournament winners. Potentially World Cup winners, too. VAVEL UK will have full coverage of that U20 World Cup Final on Sunday against Venezuela.