A tired Scotland Under-20 side wilted in the semi-finals of the Toulon Tournament as their bid to reach the final for the first time came to an underwhelming end, with holders England deservedly cruising to a comfortable win.
Two days ahead of tomorrow’s World Cup showdown at Hampden, the young Scots were aiming to make history which would have given the nation a morale-boosting lift ahead of the senior squad clash.
But they never really showed up in Fos-Sur-Mer and two goals from Leicester City’s Harvey Barnes – who made his debut for the former English Premier League winners in the Champions League this season – helped see off Scot Gemmill’s side, who never came close to repeating the form that saw them beat Brazil at the same venue on Saturday.
England boasted three Chelsea players in their starting line-up and they also had two days more rest than the Scots, who edged out Indonesia on Tuesday.
Gemmill insisted he was proud of his players’ efforts. He said: “It’s down to the fine lines in games – those moments where you have to give England credit for taking their chances in such a clinical manner.
“There wasn’t a lot in the game but defensively we needed to do better.
“From our perspective in the preparation for the game we knew we were playing a top team with dangerous players who could score those sorts of goals. On the day we’ve not managed to stop them doing what they’re good at.
“We have a 17-year-old midfielder playing against a player who has played Champions League this year. There are a lot of positives to take away from the tournament.
“To get to the semis in the manner we did and to beat Brazil means I don’t want to be too hard on them. I’m so proud of them for getting us to this position. We’re disappointed but going forwards we have to move on.
“We’ve got a chance to still finish third and that is where the focus moves to.”
Scotland received a pre-match boost at the baking-hot Stade Parsemain when skipper Oliver Burke was declared fit. However, the most expensive Scot looked far from sharp and barely made an impact.
England netted with their first attack of the game when the RB Leipzig winger was dispossessed on the halfway line by Hull City’s Joshua Tymon, before Barnes collected it. He was allowed far too much space to make inroads to the edge of the box before driving a low shot past Wolves’ Jack Ruddy.
There were concerns over Rangers’ midfielder Ross McCrorie after he was stretchered off following landing awkwardly after an aerial challenge and he required lengthy treatment. He was unconscious at first, but Gemmill later revealed he’s fully recovered.
Scotland had their best moment three minutes before half time when Burke fizzed a low cross wide that Dundee’s Craig Wighton just failed to get a touch on in front of goal.
But six minutes after the break saw England double their advantage and again, it was all Scotland’s doing.
Nottingham Forest defender Alex Iacovitti was robbed outside his own box while trying to build from the back and Sheffield United’s David Brooks teed up Sunderland striker Elliot Embleton to easily score.
Scotland were desperate for the final whistle in truth, but Barnes was to make them suffer further with 11 minutes to go when he curled a superb, low finish around the helpless Ruddy to seal an emphatic victory.