England: Notes from the Toulon tournament


I’m not going to pretend to be someone who pays a great deal of attention to youth football and neither am I particularly familiar with much of what happens inside the U21 league in this country.

Still, Toulon has been an interesting watch from an English perspective and it’s provided a little glimpse into the futures of a few players.

A couple of bits and pieces:

- England first two games, the 3-3 draw with Morocco and the 2-1 win over Ivory Coast have, have had their good and bad points.  The opening draw probably flattered England as they twice recovered from losing positions that they thoroughly deserved to be in and created problem after problem for themselves with some hopelessly naive defending.

- There were positives, though.  Lewis Baker (Chelsea) looks every inch a future star and his soft-touch in the middle of the pitch and his astute understanding of the game around him was a constant positive.

- Superficially, Dominic Iorfa (Wolves) had a nightmare against Morocco - and, yes, his two yellow-cards were a symptom of his own rashness rather than any misfortune.  There was still something to like about him, though, and before his dismissal he looked like a very good athlete and was generally quite accomplished on the ball.

A red card at a tournament is a horrible thing for any player, but Iorfa’s response to it will be very interesting and will likely tell us a lot about his mentality.

- Chuba Akpom (Arsenal) has done himself no harm at all; two excellent finishes have underlined what a talented forward he is - the second, England’s opener against Ivory Coast, was particularly pleasing: a smart run behind his marker and the composure to open his body and shape the ball around the advancing goalkeeper.  Excellent.

Akpom is some way off being Premier League-ready, but where he spends 2015/16 - and what it produces - will be very interesting.

- If there’s been a star of these two games, it’s been Duncan Watmore (Sunderland) - who, admittedly, I’d never heard of prior to this tournament.  His all-round skill-set is quite impressive, but he also seems to possess a very sharp creative mind and it’s not a coincidence that he’s been England’s most regular source of opportunities.  His square-ball for Demerai Gray in the first game was a peach and the pass he produced to put Chuba Akpom clean through yesterday afternoon was wonderfully measured.  If you haven’t seen him play, think of a slightly pacier version of James Milner - those kind of comparisons are usually folly, but there’s an uncanny stylistic resemblance.

- Last word to Christian Walton (Brighton), who is sharing time in goal with Jordan Pickford (Sunderland), for this late, point-saving stop against Morocco:

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For uMAXit: Farewell to the evergreen Frank Lampard, football’s superstar Everyman




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