FIFA U-17 World Cup: How England cubs ‘passed’ masters Spain in final | fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 | Hindustan Times
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FIFA U-17 World Cup: How England cubs ‘passed’ masters Spain in final

The England football team, led by the brilliance of Rhian Brewster right till the goalkeeping abilities of Curtis Anderson, displayed a magnificent blend of tactics, temperament, technique and athletic ability to beat Spain and win the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 29, 2017 22:07 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Rhian Brewster was the leading goal-scorer in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and his contributions helped England secure the title for the first time.
Rhian Brewster was the leading goal-scorer in the FIFA U-17 World Cup and his contributions helped England secure the title for the first time. (REUTERS)

What was begun by Jadon Sancho on the left ended with a Philip Foden masterclass on the right. The start and the finish highlighted individual prowess but if England aced this under-17 World Cup, it was because Sancho and Foden bookended a team performance that scored high, very high, on tactics, temperament, technique and athletic ability.

Worthy winners, said Steve Cooper. “To be 0-2 down and win 5-2 in a World Cup final tells you everything about the character of the English players,” he said.

From when they kicked off against Chile on October 8, with Sancho showing why Borussia Dortmund are so invested in him, England’s technical and tactical abilities were evident. George McEachran and Tashan Oakley-Boothe anchored the midfield and shouldered responsibilities of finding the attacking trio which, for the group games, comprised Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Foden with Rhian Brewster being the targetman.

Curtis Anderson was more than a competent goalkeeper, in front of him Joel Latibeaudiere and Marc Guehi looked sure in their tackles and Steven Sessegnon made the most of right-back Timothy Eyoma’s suspension to leave such a mark in India. When Sancho left, Hudson-Odoi ensured he was not missed.

Except for brief passages of play against Mexico and Brazil, England were in control. Brazil had the full-throated backing of nearly 64,000 people but with help from Hudson-Odoi, Sessegnon and Emile Smith Rowe, Brewster who got his second successive hattrick. Yes, they couldn’t unlock Japan from open play but that pre-quarter final showed England could hold their nerve during the penalties.

On Saturday, it was different. Spain had found space behind a high line and with finishing that was silken first and sublime the next time, Sergio Gomez had scored twice. Spain are the European champions, had played three under-17 World Cup finals before this and is the cradle of the passing game which makes football seem like symphony.

Their self-belief put to its sternest test, England reacted by scoring five. “The way we have gone about the tournament, the football we have played, the belief has been second to none,” said Cooper. “We were confident of coming back,” said Brewster.

Somewhat like the way Bayern Munich was an improved and a more physical version of Barcelona when Pep Guardiola shifted base, this England team added speed and athleticism to their desire for the ball. The execution was successful enough for Cooper to want to call it “our way.” Now, who said something like that since the time of the ‘wingless wonders’?

“We beat Spain by playing our game. If it is similar to Spain, great but this is us. Not one long ball, it was pass, pass, pass and getting to play as a team which has good individuals who are also brave in the ball. We have a plan that can be used even against the best,” he said.

This is how Cooper said all England teams would play. The mist is still some time away from lifting but Santiago Denia, the Spain coach, said England have improved in all departments since the European championship final. Russia will be a different story but if these cubs stay the course, a few happy chapters could be added to the underwhelming story of England football teams.