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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Chile seek inspiration from ‘big team’ before England match

Main aim for England is to win the senior World Cup and we are working towards that, says its FIFA U-17 World Cup coach Steve Cooper

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 07, 2017 20:39 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Steve Cooper took charge of the England U-17 team in 2015.
Steve Cooper took charge of the England U-17 team in 2015.(Getty Images)

If this was a boxing night, the first match of Sunday’s double-header here would have been on the undercard. More so because England and Chile have never played in the FIFA U-17 World Cup before.

But then in a competition that sets great store by pedigree, this Group F match should get more eyeballs on the opening evening of the Kolkata chapter than the one between continental champions Mexico and Iraq.

Chile’s inspiration

Chile’s ‘big team’, as the senior side was repeatedly referred to at the official media conference on Saturday, are the current bosses of South America. Their players such as Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo, Eduardo Vargas and Gary Medel are famous.

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“The senior national team is like a mirror for us to reflect,” said Antonio Diaz. The senior team’s victory in the World Cup qualifier against Ecuador means Chile will go into the U-17 match in a good mood, said the forward. That no one from the ‘big team’ has spoken to these boys didn’t matter to Diaz. “They are busy but I know they always support us,” he said with an impish grin.

Thanks to the Premier League, England always gets a lot of attention. At least before the start of a World Cup.

England’s stature

So it was before Group F kicks off. That England are here as the FIFA U-20 world champions and U-17 runners-up in Europe has added substance to the usual hype around their football teams. “The main aim is to win the senior World Cup and we are working towards that. Of course, we would like to be successful over the next few weeks but the focus is on development,” said coach Steve Cooper.

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So it fit that Cooper said he enjoys being in a particularly difficult group. “It’s about such different styles and cultures and there really is no easy way to do well in this tournament,” he said. Before him Hernan Caputo, the Chile coach, had described the quartet as “one of the toughest in the tournament.”

Embracing conditions

The weather is not going to be an issue, Caputo said and Cooper felt playing in such different conditions and culture makes it exciting and a part of the development process. England spent a week in Mumbai to acclimatise and spoke to everyone they could who had been in India, their cricket team included.

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Chile have spent six months to get ready and both Caputo and Diaz spoke of how important it was for them to make a mark in a competition they qualified after 20 years. And Chelsea’s Marc Guehi could have been speaking for a lot of his teammates when he said playing at such a grand stage can help him get a first team berth at the club.