FIFA U-17 World Cup, England vs Spain: ENG’s strengths, weaknesses, key players
An enthralling contest is on the cards when England and Spain lock horns in the first-ever all-European final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will have a new champion after a record-breaking tournament.Updated: Oct 28, 2017 13:46 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
After three weeks of high intensity and top quality football, Spain and England will finally bring an end to the FIFA U-17 World Cup when they meet each other in the all-European final clash in Kolkata on Saturday. (FIFA U-17 World Cup Full Coverage)
In the first semi-final clash, Spain had defeated Mali 3-1 at the Dr. DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
England, on the other hand, stunned three-time champions Brazil by the same margin in Kolkata to enter their maiden summit showdown.
Here’s look at England’s strengths, weaknesses and key players -
Jadon Sancho’s unavailability beyond the group stages meant questions were rightfully raised about how the side would do without him. However, Rhian Brewster stepped up to the plate and his performances have ensured that Steve Cooper’s boys have not missed the Borussia Dortmund forward.
Scoring a hat-trick in a knockout game is an accomplishment anyone would be proud of. But Brewster wasn’t content with scoring just one. His consecutive hat-tricks against USA and Brazil means he’ll be the one to watch out for when the final begins.
Plenty of star power
Whilst Rhian Brewster has dominated the headlines due to his two hat-tricks in the knockouts, it’s worth noting that England aren’t lacking in the star power department.
Aside from Brewster, England possess the likes of Calum Hudson-Odoi, Angel Gomes, Phil Foden and George McEachran who can make life hard for Spain if necessary. The fact that they have such strong players in a variety of positions makes it that much harder for Spain, as they will have to look to stop the team and not just one individual.
Arguably England’s biggest strength is the fact that whilst they possess talented individuals, they function like a well-oiled machine on the field. Every player has a pre-defined role and sticks to it, making the team that much harder to stop when they move forward or break down when they set up to defend.
One of the biggest criticisms of the senior England football team over the years is that whilst they have always possessed talented individuals, they could never quite function as a team. This is a problem that in no way affects this current England U-17 team, and it shows in their results.
History against them
England have always been regarded a powerhouse in world football, but they have only ever won a single World Cup and are yet to win the European Championships. This is a problem that has plagued them at the youth level as well.
England have only recently started experiencing some level of success at youth level, winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup and also making the finals of the European U-17 Championships. However, the pressure of the situation can get to anyone and this is something England must be wary of before the final.
Spain beat them in the U-17 Euros
Spain qualified for the FIFA U-17 World Cup as European champions, and they beat none other than England to be crowned champions of Europe. England put in a spirited performance but were ultimately undone by their old nemesis, the penalty shootout.
The fact that Spain have beaten them before is something that will weigh on their minds and it can affect them going into the final.
Conceding goals at dangerous times
Given how prolific this England side are, one could argue it doesn’t matter if they concede a goal or two. However, the strongest teams always have a tight defence and England’s defence has the tendency of letting goals at unwanted periods.
This was something that cost them the U-17 European Championships, as a late Spain equaliser eventually saw England lose the final on penalties. They even conceded two goals against Mexico in the FIFA U-17 World Cup group stages after leading the game 3-0 for 65 minutes, leading to a few nervy moments. This is something they must look to avoid at all costs in the final.
Three players to watch out for
The England forward has stepped up to the plate when his country needed him the most, scoring two hat-tricks against USA and Brazil in the quarterfinals and semi-finals respectively.
The youngster possesses plenty of pace and a keen eye for goal. Given how good his recent performances have been, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him to be knocking on the door of the Liverpool senior team once the tournament is done and dusted.
The young attacking midfielder is a highly rated prospect at club Chelsea, where he starred in the youth team’s Treble-winning 2016/17 season. He was also a key member of the England side that finished second in the U-17 European Championships.
Hudson-Odoi has already drawn comparisons to Chelsea attacker Eden Hazard and has shown glimpses of his potential throughout the tournament. England will undoubtedly rely on his speed and natural ability to counter Spain’s high defensive line.
The Manchester City midfielder is the kind of player who is extremely adept at pulling the strings without actually hogging the spotlight. His ability to dictate the play from midfield has flown under the radar but it has been important to England’s form throughout the tournament nevertheless.
His all-round midfield game will not have gone unnoticed by Pep Guardiola, a manager who is fond of nurturing young talent and who likes midfielders in the mould of Foden. Expect to see Foden getting a game for the senior team sooner rather than later.
First Published: Oct 28, 2017 13:33 IST