The young Scots secured a last-four spot again after an edgy win over the South Koreans in Fos-Sur-Mer and will now face Aidy Boothroyd’s England in Aubagne on Wednesday. A year ago, the English proved too strong for Scot Gemmill’s side in a 3-0 win.
A fine strike after only 84 seconds by 16-year-old Chelsea midfielder Billy Gilmour – who became the youngest ever scorer for Scotland’s Under 21s – and a quite brilliant individual strike by captain Oliver Burke, who galloped 70 yards before finishing with aplomb, sent the Scots through, after they had earlier drawn with Togo and defeated France.
They had to wait until the final game in their group to ensure qualification because Togo could have gone above Scotland had they beaten the hosts, but France eased to a 2-0 win and the Scots were through again.
In truth, the young Scots were a long way from their best in the south of France. After going two up in only eight minutes, it looked like the floodgates would open. But they alarmingly stopped playing their pleasing-on-the-eye football on the deck and dropped deeper and deeper.
A quality late free-kick by Valencia starlet Lee Kang-in sparked panic in the Scots ranks because a draw would have eliminated them. But the defence held firm and although Gilmour, Burke and Fraser Hornby have captured the headlines so far, Scotland’s best player for the three games has been the ultra-consistent Allan Campbell. The Motherwell buzzbomb in midfield goes through a power of work.
They will face an England team who have won three of the five youth tournaments last year, including the Toulon Tournament, and reached the final and semi-final of the two they didn’t win.
Boothroyd can also count on player such as Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook, who has already been capped at full level and Chelsea starlet Tammy Abraham, who has won two caps, and Everton midfield general Tom Davies. They have won this tournament six times and are going for three in a row. Scotland have yet to reach the final, but are convinced they can spring a surprise and young Celtic defender Anthony Ralston insists confidence is high.
He said: “Everybody is happy. We’re all lifted by it. It’s nice to have time after a win like that when you can enjoy it. The camp’s good and there is a good confidence about the place.Last year we beat Brazil and got to the semi-finals and it was a similar feeling beating France this year. Beating Brazil will stick with you forever and so does beating France.
“It’s something everyone involved can be immensely proud of. Beating both those teams is a great achievement for everyone.
“If we can beat France then the sky’s the limit for the teams we can take out in this tournament. We need to keep that in mind, knowing we are capable of doing that. We’ve got good enough players and we’re a good enough team with good coaching. We can have a good go at this tournament. Hopefully, we can go one step better than last year and get to the final.”
Manager Gemmill, left, said: “It’s a very different team and squad, different set of players. We have six or seven who came last year. It is interesting to compare the two teams. We have a lot of players who are eligible but weren’t available to come because of injuries.
“We take real confidence that we’re starting to put together a real squad of players even outside of this group.”