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

England and Spain are aiming for their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title as they face in the title clash in Kolkata on Saturday

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 27, 2017 20:43 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,Spain Football team
Spain players during a training session before the FIFA U-17 World Cup final against England in Kolkata.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Only Ronaldinho has won the under-17 and men’s World Cups. He is the common element in the dozen who have won the men’s World Cup and played in this competition.

Since 1985, only 210 players have played both this and the men’s World Cup finals. Scan the list of highest scorers in the competition, and barring Cesc Fabregas and Carlos Vela, the rest couldn’t come close to reproducing the magic they showed as teens.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: We can match or better any team, says England coach

Be it in shifting from defence to attack or making the journey from boys to men, transition is a key element in football. Such attrition levels will mean Saturday could be the biggest night in the lives of most who walk out for England and Spain in the final of the 17th FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Both countries have won the men’s World Cup but not this, so the Salt Lake stadium is assured of a new champion. “We want to do what no one has done before,” said Spain’s soft-spoken coach Santiago Denia. His team is one win from emulating ‘La Roja’ which has been the European and world champions.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup, Brazil vs England: Rhian Brewster hattrick sends ENG to final

The first all-European final in the FIFA U-17 World Cup means the teams meet again after May 19 when they disputed for supremacy in Europe. “We know all about each other,” said England coach Steve Cooper.

Spain’s shootout win

That night in Croatia, Spain won the lottery of penalty-kicks. Joel Latibeaudiere, one-half of England’s inner defence whose surefootedness has been important in the Young Lions’ journey in India, missed his but said such experiences make you stronger.

“We learnt a lot from the European championships but that is in the past,” said the player whose father is from Dominican Republic.

It fits a competition that has seen 170 goals, two short of the most ever, that Spain and England are in the final.

England have scored 18 goals, Spain 15. On either side of the pitch, Rhian Brewster (7) and Abel Ruiz (6) could be contesting for the highest scorer’s record, unless Mali’s Lassana N’Diaye (6) puts it beyond them earlier in the evening, in the third-place playoff against Brazil.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain beat Mali 3-1 to set up historic all-European final

Both teams love to have the ball and in Philip Foden and Mohamed Moukhliss have players who are midfield heartbeats.

Students of several art colleges paint graffiti as part of decoration before FIFA U 17 World Cup Final at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. ( Samir Jana/HT PHOTO )

England’s right balance

Having played them, Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu said Spain have better technical ability but England the balance between ‘physical and technical’.

“It is possible that England are more physical but we played such teams in the Euros and beat them by finding ourselves. Tomorrow, it will again be about finding ourselves. We have worked for this day for two years,” said Spain defender Hugo Guillamon. They even created a WhatsApp group “India 100%” for this.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: ‘Dream come true’ for Rhian Brewster as England reach final

They will be up against a side that, according to Morgan Gibbs White, doesn’t know ‘nervousness’, can again call the Salt Lake stadium ‘home’ and will take a lot of positives from the way they clinically shut out Brazil.

Once earlier in a World Cup (2010), Spain lost their first match and the rest is history. Having never made it past the quarter-finals, England now must show they care a fig for history even as they seek to write their own.

First Published: Oct 27, 2017 20:42 IST