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Phil Foden - England’s golden boy at the FIFA U-17 World Cup

Phil Foden was the star performer for England at the FIFA U-17 World Cup final as he scored two crucial goals to guide his team to their maiden world title.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 29, 2017 22:25 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Phil Foden,FIFA U-17 World Cup,England football team
Philip Foden (L) celebrates with Rhian Brewster after scoring a goal during the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 final.(PTI)

Whether Philip Foden falls prey to the English affinity for hyperbole about their footballers or fades away like many under-17 Golden Ball winners have will be known in time but nothing’s going to take away what he achieved in India.

After over 550 minutes of football, Foden had three goals and one assist. His left-foot prowess was first seen against Mexico when he scored with a first-time effort from around 18 yards out. On Saturday he had a similar attempt saved by Spain goalie Alvaro Fernandez, but netted with each foot from close range.

“We didn’t have the best of starts but we tried to stay calm and true to our style of playing. In the second half, we could attack in numbers as we can and got the goals,” said Foden after the 5-2 win.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: How England cubs ‘passed’ masters Spain in final

In all games, Foden put in a tireless shift on the right and showcased every attribute of an attacking midfielder. He would cut in Arjen Robben-like, drift wide and sometimes drop deep to assist build-up play. And he would pop up inside the area to finish moves.

All this from someone who is more comfortable playing down the middle. This is according to Pep Guardiola who is at the club Foden joined as an under-9 footballer.

Such was Foden’s industry and artistry that the Salt Lake stadium gave him a warm send-off even when it was supporting Brazil. On Saturday, his name was echoing on the ramparts and Foden acknowledged the appreciation by taking groupfies and shaking hands with the crowd.

READ | FIFA U-17 World Cup: England rally to crush Spain 5-2 for maiden trophy

“He is a different player from another planet,” said England defender Joel Latibeaudiere. True, this was a 17-year-old speaking moments after winning an under-17 World Cup but it showed how special Foden is to them.

“I wish he would play for Liverpool,” said Rhian Brewster. “As soon as he gets the ball, I know what he is going to do. I really don’t remember how many assists I’ve got from him,” said the Golden Boot winner.

“For Phil, it (the Golden Ball) is a well-deserved award; he has scored goals, created chances and his work rate was immense and he is such a good kid,” said England coach Steve Cooper before stressing that the reason why they have winners’ medals isn’t because of individuals but because they stuck together. “I can give you 21 stories about the 21 players why we won the World Cup,” said Cooper.

READ | Indian football 50-100 years behind, they should start somewhere: Sol Campbell

Asked about him getting a Premiership berth, Guardiola pointed out that Foden has been regularly training with the first team. The best way to learn is to be with guys who play at such a high level, said Guardiola.

Had Foden not been in India soaking in the World Cup experience, he would have started against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the EFL Cup, Guardiola has said. He is a special player even if he is not tall or strong, the City manager said of Foden.

At City and in Europe, they already knew about Foden. Now, the world does.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 20:41 IST