England booked their place in the knockout stage of the 2017 Toulon Tournament on Thursday as a George Hirst hat-trick helped them to 7-1 hammering of Cuba.
Goals from Harvey Barnes and Hirst gave England an early two-goal lead. Then Eduardo Enrique Puga Saucedo reduced the deficit before half-time, although his side suffered another setback on the cusp of the interval when they were reduced to 10 men after Neisser Herve's red card.
Five minutes after the restart, Barnes and Hirst both grabbed a second each to effectively end the match as a contest.
David Brooks bagged a fifth before Hirst smashed in his third on a memorable night. Martell Taylor-Crossdale made it seven with a late penalty.
The result saw England secure top spot in Group A. They are on six points, four clear of Japan, who they will meet in their final match.
After a relatively slow start to the clash, England were able to find their groove and pick some holes in the Cuba defence.
They capitalised in the 19th minute, as Barnes was well-placed in the box to turn home a smart cutback past the goalkeeper. From that point on, it was always going to be a difficult evening for Cuba.
Hirst was in lethal form in front of goal. Reece James sprung the offside trap and squared to the Sheffield Wednesday youngster to apply the finishing touch. And although Cuba did manage to get one back, the red card meant the second half was going to be a big struggle for the underdogs.
Although Hirst and Barnes were the two players on the scoresheet, the Chelsea Youth Twitter account complimented the display turned in by Blues starlet James, who was everywhere in the first period:
Despite their superior quality and extra-man advantage, England did not take their foot off the gas, with Barnes robbing possession from a dallying Cuba defender and calmly stroking home for 3-1. Not to be outdone, Hirst secured his brace, with Brooks—a Sheffield United prospect—again setting him up.
Having laid on a couple of goals already, Brooks was able to get on the scoresheet next for the Three Lions.
As noted by Chris Holt of the Sheffield Star, the Sheffield youngsters were catching the eye for England:
Hirst, in particular, was sparkling. The son of former England international David Hirst was linked with a move to Everton in January, per Phil Kirkbride of the Liverpool Echo, and it was easy to see why as he completed his hat-trick. Unsurprisingly, it was Brooks who again provided the assist, making it three for the night for him.
The Wednesday Twitter account paid tribute to the 18-year-old's excellent game in front of goal:
There was still time for another goal for England, too, as they were awarded a penalty in added time. Off the bench, Chelsea's Taylor-Crossdale dispatched it for the Three Lions' seventh of the night; it's a display that proves this team is going to be difficult to beat as they seek to defend their crown.