Scotland will aim to complete the first half of a famous Auld Enemy double today by reaching the final of the Toulon Tournament for the first time by knocking out holders England.
Scot Gemmill’s under-20 side face the English in Fos-sur-Mer just two days ahead of the massive World Cup showdown at Hampden on Saturday between the two senior sides.
The young Scots have won through to the semi-finals for the first time in 23 years, thanks to wins over Brazil and Indonesia, while the likes of hosts France, Wales, Japan and, of course, the Brazilians have all been eliminated.
England are still favourites, but they have been weakened by their own success at youth level because their first choice side will play in the Under-20 World Cup semi-final against Italy today – and the Euro Under 19s Finals next month. That means manager Neil Dewsnip has picked a younger squad than usual with a few quality, older additions, such as George Hirst, son of former Sheffield Wednesday striker David.
Nottingham Forest and Scotland U20 defender Alex Iacovitti – who will be up against his club team-mate Joe Worrall – is determined to ensure the Tartan Army are celebrating two wins in three days against the English.
Iacovitti, who has been personally coached by David Weir – assistant to former Rangers manager Mark Warburton – is determined to go all the way and at least make the final for the first time since the tournament began in 1974.
He said: “I really want to win this tournament now and make history. I don’t want the Brazil win to be the highlight now that we’ve got this far. England are a big team like Brazil and if we execute the gameplan as we did against Brazil, then we have a good chance.
“I’ve played against a few of their boys before, but I’m not too bothered about them. We’re more than capable of beating them.
“It’s amazing this is just before the World Cup game on Saturday. If we could both get the win, it would be crazy back home and so hopefully we can do it for the people in Scotland.
“We knew the Toulon Tournament was a big tournament, but perhaps there wasn’t the same level of interest at the start. But once we beat Brazil and got to the semis, people have started to realise we are a really good team and can go all the way.”
Scotland will be boosted by the return of £13 million RB Leipzig player Oliver Burke and Iacovitti believes that could be a key factor.
He pointed out: “You can’t be a bad player if you play for a team who are second in the Bundesliga. He’s more than a threat and I think they will be frightened of him. He’s improved since he left Forest technically. When you come up against someone like that, he makes other players nervous.
“I’ve played with Joe at the back for Nottingham Forest since I was 13 years old. I know his game and he knows mine. It will be weird playing against him.
“Joe has weaknesses like everyone and we have to try and exploit them. I’ll give as much information [as I can] to the coaching staff about him.”
Gemmill has urged his players not to be overawed by the sense of occasion when they face England.
He said: “We all grew up looking forward to those games and being a part of those games. It’s definitely a brilliant occasion for the players to look forward to.
“Playing Brazil and England games are why we pushed so hard for this invitation. You have to handle the occasion. The players have shown they can be trusted to do that.”