Played in a bit of a windstorm (that sometimes turned into a duststorm thanks to a construction site next door) on a pitch that looked like somebody's back yard, England U21 controlled proceedings against Portugal U21 for the two 40-minute halves of their opening match at this year's Toulon Tournament. Why 40-minute halves? Who knows! Just Toulon things.
Four of the five Chelsea midfielders in the squad got the start from Gareth Southgate, who managed to shoehorn a truckload of midfielders into what was essentially a striker-less formation. Nathaniel Chalobah, cramping by the end of the match thanks to his extreme lack of playing time this season, formed the base of the midfield scrum, with Lewis Baker in a more advanced role and Ruben Loftus-Cheek playing some sort of a withdrawn striker / false-9 abomination. Kasey Palmer, on his debut at this age level, was one of the wide midfielders, with Sunderland's Duncan Watmore and Southampton's James Ward-Prowse completing the front six.
Weird formation aside, England seemed to have the upper hand for most of the match, though it was hardly a high intensity occasion. Perfect for Loftus-Cheek's pace then, ey? All kidding aside, it was Chelsea's Young Player of the Year who set the up the game's only goal, combining with substitute Nathan Redmond (and a lucky bounce) to get in behind the solid Portuguese defense and then squaring the ball for former Chelsea Young Player of the Year Lewis Baker to slam home. Baker had several other chances as well, but young Joel Pereira has been studying his club teammate David De Gea rather well, it appeared.
With the win, England are off to a good start to better last year's slightly disappointing 4th place finish. They will take on Guinea, Paraguay, and Japan next week. Hopefully the fifth member of the Chelsea entourage, John Swift, will get a few minutes then as well.