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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

FIFA U-17 World Cup: England, Spain final underlines Europe’s hegemony

Spain will take on England in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. This is the first time two European teams are taking part in the summit clash of the tournament.

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 28, 2017 00:02 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Spain players during a training session before their FIFA U-17 World Cup final against England at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Friday.
Spain players during a training session before their FIFA U-17 World Cup final against England at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Friday.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

The first all-European final in a men’s World Cup came in 1934. It has happened seven times since, twice in the last three editions. But it took 32 years and 17 editions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup for an all-European summit showdown.

So, with a young German team winning the Confederation Cup, England being U-20 world champions and now this, is Europe football’s undisputed superpower?

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Familiar rivals England, Spain seek uncharted territory

Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu said if England and Spain are in the final it is because Europe has more competitions at the youth level.

“And with every year, they are getting more and more organised. In Brazil, we have two or three strong youth teams who keep winning 10-0, 15-0. We need more competitions for all age-groups in South America and we need to get more organised,” said Amadeu, whose team will meet Mali to decide the third place.

Mali coach Jonas Komla said: “Europe has a lot of advantages in terms of resources. Africa has a lot of quality but we need the resources to move forward, we have the same ability.”

While resource was never a problem for Europe, what may have changed in this edition is how Europe’s football elite have focused on the World Cup for the youngest. Of the five teams from Europe, three made the quarter-finals this time and France were eliminated by Spain in the pre-quarters.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Brazil seek consolation win over Mali in 3rd place play-off


Take England. Their coach Steve Cooper has said the plan is to get all England teams to play in one way and that clubs have bought into it. At no point has it seemed like mere talk. “There are technically gifted players in England now,” said Cooper.

“The plan put in place by the FA (Football Association) and the work we are doing at St George’s Park is still very young. We have made a start (by winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup in the summer) but nobody is getting excited,” said Cooper, who has imbibed a lot of the Spanish way of playing while on Liverpool’s coaching staff.

Cooper’s usual line-up has four Chelsea players and three from Manchester City. City’s Joel Latibeaudiere and Chelsea’s Marc Guehi have anchored the inner defence so well that all of Brazil’s skills couldn’t unlock. “We have been together since the under-15s and have a good relationship,” said Latibeaudiere.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Dheeraj Singh garners interest from 3 foreign clubs - Report

As with the men’s team, Real Madrid and Barcelona dominate the Spain squad with five and four players respectively and what those clubs do with kids is well known.

The Spain way of passing football is better established than England and hence coach Santiago Denia could say: “It is not just about having the ball but you need to know what you have to do with it.”

Barring Brazil, every team that Amadeu felt could win this tournament was from Europe. “Tactically the players are already in an advanced stage of their development, especially European teams,” said former England defender Sol Campbell, who is part of the Fifa Technical Study Group.

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 23:42 IST

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