This Wednesday, June 3rd, sees the start of the 37th annual Toulon Tournament. The competition, staged in the south of France, is one of the most prestigious and revered youth competitions in world football and has played host to many of today’s top stars when they were mere Under-21 footballers.
The competition format takes hosts France and seven other invitational teams into a two-group format. Each team plays eachother once, with the top two in each group progressing to the Semi-Finals, with the Final on June 12th. This year’s tournament sees the groups shape up like so:
Group A: Argentina, Egypt, Holland, UAE
Group B: Chile, France, Portugal, Qatar
As well as the host commune of Toulon, matches will be played in the neighbouring areas of Aubagne, Bormes, La Seyne and Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer.
Last year’s tournament was won by a very impressive Italian team in their build-up to the Olympic Games, but it was Marcelo Bielsa’s Chilean team who really caught the imagination. They started by beating the favoured hosts 5-3 before sending Holland and Japan packing for a perfect group record. A tough Semi Final win over the Ivory Coast put them into the Final against the Azzurri, where they put up a fine showing before going down to a late Pablo Osvaldo goal. They return this year, and are one of the favourites.
Always going to be one of the favourites for any tournament they enter, the Argentinians have gone with something of an experimental squad featuring some younger players. Coach Sergio Batista has named a slew of 17 year-olds in Lucas Kruspky, Leandro Marin, Esteban Espindola and Leandro Pirez, and a bunch more 18 year-olds. The standout name in the squad is diminutive forward Diego Buonanotte. The 5’3″ magician has been linked with a move to Europe from River Plate and scouts in attendance will be looking at his performances very closely. Ever Banega has already made the move to Spain, to Valencia, where he was then loaned to Atlético Madrid. Liverpool’s Gerardo Bruna and River’s Lucas Trecarichi will also have roles to play in a team which has the potential to do very well.
Squad: 1 Agustin Marchesin, 2 German Pezzela, 3 Lucas Kruspky, 4 Leandro Marin, 5 Ever Banega, 6 Hugo Nervo, 7 Franco Jara, 8 Santiago Galucci, 9 Diego Buonanotte, 11 Diego Perotti, 12 Esteban Andrada, 13 Esteban Espindola, 14 Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, 15 Mauro Diaz, 16 Diego Cardozo, 17 Lucas Trecarichi, 18 German Pacheco, 19 Alejandro Gomez, 20 David Achucarro, 21 Gerardo Bruna
Prediction: Semi Finals
Egypt are a dominant force within their own continent but rarely seem to make an impact in the wider scope. Their senior team are current back-to-back defending African Champions, but it’s nearly two decades since their last World Cup Finals appearance. However, Egyptian football is on a rise unlike any it’s ever seen, with players featuring in top leagues, and their own national league featuring many loyal, incredibly talented players. This success filters down the system and breeds confidence in young, talented footballers for the next generation.
Midfielder Yasin Allam is the only squad member to play abroad, at Rapid Vienna, so this tournament offers an opportunity for many of them to make their name, even if it doesn’t mean moving abroad, as is the trend in Egyptian football.
Squad: 2 Hamada Sayed Mohamed, 3 Sayed Hassan, 5 Moaz El Henawy, 6 Ahmed Hegazy, 7 Aly Ahmed, 8 Salah Ibrahim, 9 Mohamed Abdou, 10 Ahmed Khalifa, 11 Moustafa Selim, 12 Islam Rashad, 13 Aiman El Sayed, 15 Saadeldin Ali, 16 Ali Mostafa, 17 Mahmoud Osman, 18 Ahmed Mohamed, 19 Ahmed Bakr, 20 Hussam Hassan, 21 Marzouk Mohamed, 22 Mohamed Aly, 23 Yasin Allam
Prediction: Group Stage
United Arab Emirates
The Emiratis may be a growing force in football ownership, but on the pitch they’re still very much an afterthought to many. They are, however, improving, and their senior team won the 2007 Gulf Cup. With Frenchman Dominique Bathenay calling up some youngsters to his senior squad in recent times, the players travelling to Toulon have every chance of making an impression.
Squad: 1 Yousif Al Bairaq, 2 Saad Baniyas, 6 Adnan Shanbih, 7 Ali Al Hajeri, 8 Hamdan Al Kamali, 9 Ahmed Al Abri, 10 Theyab Al Musabi, 11 Ahmed Al Junaibi, 12 Habib Al Fardan, 13 Fahad Ibrahim, 14 Abdelaziz Al Mazam, 16 Mohamed Al Alawi, 17 Saif Abdulla, 18 Mohamed Abdalla, 19 Mohamed Juma, 20 Abdulaziz Al Balooshi, 21 Sultan Al Menhali, 24 Salem Al Rejaibi, 27 Omar Al Amoudi, 28 Maher Al Haffar
Prediction: Group Stage
Always renowned for their youth product, Holland have a fine record at Under-20 and Under-21 level, making off with the 2007 European Under-21 Championship title. Last month their Under-17 team finished runners up in the equivalent tournament in Germany, and they’ve been able to name a strong Toulon squad, having failed to qualify for the European Finals in Sweden. Defender Erik Pieters is a regular at PSV who is starting to impress, whilst they have impressive forward power in Feyenoord’s Diego Biseswar and Vitesse hitman Ricky van Wolfswinkel. If the latters hits form, they could seriously come into the reckoning.
Squad: 1 Erwin Mulder, 2 Tom Hiariej, 3 Rens van Eijden, 4 Vito Wormgoor, 5 Erik Pieters, 6 Geert-Arend Roorda, 7 Jeffrey Sarpong, 8 Erik Falkenburg, 9 Ricky van Wolfswinkel, 10 Diego Biseswar, 11 Alexander Buttner, 12 Daryl Janmaat, 13 Eelco Horsten, 14 Kai van Hese, 15 Donny Gorter, 16 Mustafa Amezrine, 17 Xander Houtcoop, 18 Donovan Deekman, 19 Bas Dost, 20 Oussama Assaidi
The revelation of last year’s tournament, Chilean football is back on the rise after a troubled start to the decade and as their senior team continues to thrive under the injection of youth, the younger generation is impressing as well. Ivo Basay takes charge in Toulon this year and will hope for a repeat of the exciting, attractive, attacking football displayed last year, when they went so close to a tournament win. Midfielder Rafael Caroca already has a full international cap to his name and is very much one to watch, whilst goalkeeper Christopher Toselli holds the FIFA Under-20 World Cup record for longest period without conceding a goal, at 492 minutes.
Squad: 1 Christopher Toselli, 2 Paulo Magalhaes, 3 Carlos Labrin, 4 Nelson Saavedra, 5 Bastián Arce, 6 Juan Abarca, 7 Eduardo Vargas, 8 Luis Pavez, 9 Mauricio Gómez, 10 Cristobal Jorquera, 11 Gerson Martínez, 12 Raúl Olivares, 13 Agustín Parra, 14 Marco Medel, 15 Jose Barrera, 16 Eugenio Mena, 17 Rafael Caroca, 18 David Llanos, 19 Michael Silva
Prediction: Semi Finals
As hosts, the French have won the competition eleven times, comfortably the most succesful nation to compete. Their run of four straight successes was ended last year in Group Stage humiliation, and they return this time once again without a Euro Under-21 Championships to eat into their squad. That happened in 2007 and they won the lot with Kévin Gameiro in fine goalscoring form and Alexandre Bonnet causing endless problems on the left. The squad coach Erik Mombaerts has picked this year is heavy on talent and experienced, led by the trio of Mamadou Sakho, David N’Gog and Gabriel Obertan. Sakho is one of the best defenders in France despite his tender years, whilst N’Gog and Obertan represent the future of the national team. In midfield, Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko has been a revelation this season, and young defenders Paul Baysse and Garry Bocaly are developing well. They have the strongest squad on paper, and it’s by some distance.
Squad: 1 Johnny Placide, 2 Garry Bocaly, 3 Armand Traore, 4 Dorian Dervite, 5 Mamadou Sakho, 6 Etienne Capoue, 7 Gabriel Obertan, 8 Moussa Sissoko, 9 David N’Gog, 10 Younousse Sankharé, 11 Bakary Sako, 12 Jean-Armel Kana-Biyik, 13 Cheikh M’Bengue, 14 Herold Goulon, 15 Damien Marcq, 16 Kévin Olimpa, 17 Marvin Martin, 18 Grégory Sertic, 19 Sambou Yatabare, 20 Jires Kembo-Ekoto, 21 Paul Baysse
Portugal’s Golden Generation of the late 90s and early 00s grew up together and won the 1992 Toulon Tournament. Their current crop, including Cristiano Ronaldo, won the competition a decade later. They will be hoping for only a third success this time, but they have been losing finalists on occasion and have pedigree at Toulon. Goalkeeper Rui Patricio has extensive experience as Sporting CP’s starting stopper, whilst teammate Adrien has earned the attention of some bigger clubs with his midfield performances. Rio Ave winger Fabio Coentrao is immensely talented but has, like so many before him, struggled to make good on his potential and has another opportunity at shining here. In a tough group, they have to show up every game.
Squad: 1 Rui Patricio, 2 Ruben Lima, 3 Andre Pinto, 4 Tengarrinha, 5 Miguel Vitor, 6 Adrien, 7 Jose Candeias, 8 Andre Castro, 9 Rabiola, 10 Rui Pedro, 11 Pereirinha, 12 Hugo Ventura, 13 Bura, 14 Yazalde, 15 Stanislas, 16 Fabio Coentrao, 17 Ukra, 18 Regula, 19 Igor Pita, 20 Joao Aurelio
Prediction: Group Stages
Much like the UAE, Qatar are essentially here to make up the numbers and continue to develop their football. Their senior squad still has a chance of World Cup 2010 Qualification but it is very slim, and any performances from their youngsters may go unnoticed as there is a growing trend to hand foreigners Qatar passports and get them into the national side. Brazilian midfielder Emerson is a recent example, and it can be disheartening for some talented younger players.
Squad: 1 Ghaith Jumah, 2 Hamad Al Dosari, 3 Khalid Fareed, 4 Isam Dad, 5 Johar Al Kaabi, 6 Dheyyab Al Inabi, 7 Khaled Abdulraaof, 8 Fadhl Omar, 10 Saoud Salem, 11 Mahdy Redha, 12 Abdulrahman Tariq, 13 Mohamed Mudather, 14 Abdelaziz Hatim, 15 Abdulghafoor Abdulla, 16 Abdulla Mustafa, 17 Hamood Al Yazidi, 18 Saoud Khames, 19 Naser Nabeel, 20 Meshaal Meqbel, 21 Ahmed Sofyan
Prediction: Group Stages
Fixtures and Television
The tournament schedule is below:
All times are CET
June 3rd – Egypt vs UAE – 18.30
June 3rd – Argentina vs Holland, 20.45
June 4th – Portugal vs Chile, 18.30
June 4th – France vs Qatar, 20.45
June 5th – Holland vs UAE, 18.30
June 5th – Argentina vs Egypt, 20.45
June 6th – France vs Portugal, 18.30
June 6th – Qatar vs Chile, 20.45
June 7th – UAE vs Argentina, 19.00
June 7th – Egypt vs Holland, 19.00
June 8th – Portugal vs Qatar, 19.00
June 8th – Chile vs France, 19.00
June 10th – Semi Final 1, 18.00
June 10th – Semi Final 2, 20.00
June 12th – Third/Fourth Playoff, 18.00
June 12th – Final, 20.30
Most matches are live on Eurosport, so tune in around kickoff time and you’ll likely be watching the action live.
Five to Watch
Without going into specifics, five to watch for this tournament:
Diego Buonanotte, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Mamadou Sakho, Moussa Sissoko, Rafael Caroca
You can keep track of the tournament on the Official Website and, of course, on this website.