Mexico, England Grind out Scoreless Draw in 2018 Toulon Tournament

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 29, 2018

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 24: Tammy Abraham of England U21 during the international friendly match between England U21 and Romania U21 at Molineux on March 24, 2018 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

England's victorious start to the 2018 Toulon Tournament was slowed on Tuesday as they saw out a goalless draw against Mexico's under-21s to keep the two teams level atop Group A. 

After each winning their first encounters at this year's tournament, England and El Tri produced a 0-0 stalemate at Stade Parsemain, but it's Mexico who have an edge thanks to their opening 4-1 win over Qatar.

The Three Lions will be hopeful of overturning that differential in goal-difference when they face Qatar on Friday if they're to topple Mexico from the top of Group A and guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals.

It's high-stakes meetings such as this, with the teams equally poised on points, that can often go one of two ways in terms of entertainment, and unfortunately Tuesday's clash was more tetchy than anything else.

It was only a handful of players from either side that stuck out from the rest and looked capable of cutting a frame on goal, with Arsenal's Eddie Nketiah one of those who impressed for England in the first half, per Gunners academy blogger Jeorge Bird:

Jeorge Bird @jeorgebird

Nketiah, playing on the left wing, is causing real problems for the Mexico defence with his pace. Has already won two free-kicks.

Laudable though it is that the vast majority of Mexico's squad is made up players at Liga MX clubs, the nation's top domestic division, the wealth of Premier League talent in England's ranks painted them as clear favourites.

The technical quality displayed across the 80 minutes was actually of a high level, but as Twitter user Frankie P. Taylor suggested, it seemed a case of two similarly weighted powers cancelling one another out:

Frankie P Taylor @frankieptaylor

Interesting to see England's attempt at a possession game, actually keeping the ball quite nicely but as the Mexico press comes higher and higher, England play deeper and deeper and end up trying to play El Rondo in and around their own penalty box rather than moving forward.

Club America wide man Diego Lainez in particular impressed for El Tri, frequently cutting infield from his hub out on the left and demonstrating why he's earned comparisons to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

Still only 17 years old, playing against men four years his senior and with minutes in England's top divisions, the 5'6" teenager showed off that low centre of gravity and was a menace in making progress up the pitch:

Luke Ash @smishking

Diego Lainez Leyva is a bit of a player for his age. Incredible dribbling ability and awareness on the pitch. Only 17, too.

Pete Schlenker @PeteSchlenker

hey @EagleEyePod how has Lainez not been on the pitch for @clubamerica_en this past season? He's been the best player on the pitch for the 1st half of this Toulon Tournament match v England

Lainez looked like the most likely source of a goal and had a shout for a penalty near the climax, when Charlton Athletic defender Jay Dasilva tugged his shirt inside the box, seemingly missed by the referee.

Lewis Cook recently extended his contract at Bournemouth following a breakthrough season and at times clearly looked a step ahead of his peers, providing a composed, steadying presence at England's core.

There were those who argued Cook deserved a spot in England's 2018 FIFA World Cup squad—and he is on the standby list—although others would say those in their early twenties can still benefit from time outside the senior team:

🍒 Mike Jones @chickencricket

Why is Lewis Cook playing in this team? It’s L2 level. Waste of his time. #afcb

Leicester City's Hamza Choudhury made his way into the squad following several injuries and wasn't as collected, and it's possible the 72nd-minute introduction of striker Tammy Abraham could have come sooner.

A share of the spoils was fair reward for both teams, although England can feel disappointed they didn't at least threaten more going forward.

Mexico's defence came under fire, but their forwards dished the damage back and had the better chances at the goal of Newcastle United 'keeper Freddie Woodman, with Group A still in their control ahead of the last pool matchday.


What's Next?

Group A leaders Mexico close their first-round campaign against China on Friday, the same day England play their last pool match against Qatar. If both teams win their games, England have to overturn the two-goal advantage Mexico have in order to finish first.


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