This was Ivan Toney’s destiny

Tournament football is a different world to club football.

There is far less preparation for national team games. With that, there is far less cohesion during them. The winners aren’t always the easiest on the eye, but usually the most effective and most efficient. You don’t even have to be the best, you only have to beat the best.

The consistent nausea brought about by this unorganised football leads to every tournament being labelled as the worst in a generation. Get a grip, people, this is just the reality we live in. Fighting battles with sticks and stones is how they’ve always done it.

England’s self-deprecating style at Euro 2024 hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, and there is growing discontent among supporters to ramp up the tempo to match the ante.

After scraping past Slovakia in extra-time and Switzerland on penalties, one diamond in the rough has shone to make the most of what precious little England have mustered – Ivan Toney. At last, the Three Lions have a player whose skillset perfectly suits the imperfect demands of international football.

Your Niclas Fullkrug’s and Wout Weghorst’s have given the target man a new lease of life. Fortunately for England, Toney is already what they are and more – more than just a handful, more than just another body, more than the regular target man.

Toney puts himself about far better than anyone in England’s ranks, an extra edge to his game brought by his razor-sharp mentality and superhuman strength. You don’t want to face him in the air. You don’t want his wide, sculpted shoulders colliding into yours, you mere mortal.

All of that lends itself to this style of football, sure, but the way he knits those qualities together make him something of a luxury role player.

Ivan Toney

Never in doubt / Richard Sellers/Allstar/GettyImages

And then there’s his trademark penalty-taking, boasting a near-flawless record from the spot, a near-flawless technique which involves staring down the goalkeeper and not even looking at the ball.

On Saturday, Yann Sommer was Toney’s latest victim. A crucial penalty on the European Championship stage put the 28-year-old in the spotlight he craved, the moment he wanted and deserved.

“I never look at the ball,” Toney told the world’s press post-match, the wider public wanting to know more about his nerves of steel. “Considering it is my routine I just think it is what I do but some people may see it as crazy. But it is just my routine and I’ll stick to it. It’s been working and it can work whenever it is needed.”

Twice now Gareth Southgate has turned to Toney to help rescue England’s hopes of Euro 2024 glory, and twice he has delivered. Be the focal point, be the centre of attention. Do you, and the rest will fall into place.

Unless England are strolling to victory (HA), it’s hard to imagine that Toney won’t play some part in their upcoming semi-final and any potential final. He’s simply too impactful on this platform to overlook.

These displays, regardless of how reduced they have been and how small the sample size is, will surely drum up interest in Toney, who will be allowed to leave Brentford this summer if they receive a suitable offer.

Again, club football is not the same as international football, but it’s hard to deny that there wouldn’t be a similar use for Toney in the week-to-week game, or at least in the knockout stages of European competitions. But as he’s proven in the last seven days, he’s ready for all of that.


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