Trevoh Chalobah, England Lose 2-1 to Japan in 2019 Toulon Tournament Opener

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2019

COLCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Trevor Chalobah of England during the International Friendly match between England U20 and Germany U20 at Colchester Community Stadium on November 19, 2018 in Colchester, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

England began the defence of their title with a 2-1 defeat to Japan in the 2019 Toulon Tournament on Saturday.

A goal from Chelsea's Trevoh Chalobah got the hosts started the right way, but it was cancelled out by second-half strikes from Takuma Ominami and Yoichi Naganuma.

The result puts an early dent in the Three Lions' bid to win the trophy for a fourth straight year. It's a first defeat in an opening Toulon game since 1995 for England.

England appeared to be coasting when Burnley winger Dwight McNeil lofted a corner onto the head of Blues defender Chalobah seven minutes before the break.

TurfCast @TurfCastPodcast

🦁 Dwight McNeil has started for England u20’s for their tournament opener in France against Japan. 😎 45 minutes in and he’s already bagged an assist. 🤙🏼🤙🏼🤙🏼🤙🏼🤙🏼🤙🏼 #twitterclarets #UTC https://t.co/YzzoOrTCmT

There were warnings, though, about Japan's ability to combine at pace in the final third. Koki Ogawa and Tatsuya Ito had created a few promising openings and provided hope ahead of the second half.

Japan's endeavour was rewarded two minutes after the restart when Ominami shot smartly on the turn from inside the box.

The equaliser was suitable punishment for England's sluggish display. There was little pace or imagination in possession, with manager Paul Simpson inexplicably leaving key talents like Arsenal duo Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock on the bench.

Instead, it was left to George Hirst to lead the line, and he struggled without consistent supply from midfield.

It seemed a matter of time before Japan took the lead, and so it proved as the impressive Ito teed up Naganuma to head in the 68th-minute winner.

Ito displayed the creative touch England missed.
Ito displayed the creative touch England missed.Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Ito's guile was putting England to shame, and the 21-year-old Hamburg midfielder pulled the strings for his nation in a lively display.

Simpson's response was to bring Southampton's Josh Sims off the bench, yet the source of supply remained McNeil's deliveries from the flanks.

The one-dimensional approach left Simpson's men without the ingenuity to break down a hard-working Japanese team that kept its shape well and maximised their flair in forward areas.

Simpson left a lot of talent out of the starting XI for the opener, but he'll need to call on Willock and Co. against Portugal.


What's Next?

England face Portugal on Tuesday, while Japan continue their campaign against Chile.