Various England sides have been accused of lacking mental fortitude but the current U-17 batch cannot be charged with the same offense as they complete thrilling come-from-behind win over Spain to conquer the world on an emotional night, Vishnu Prasad wri
England manage to pull off an incredible victory against Spain after trailing two goals to one in the first half during the final of the Under-17 World Cup in Kolkata on Saturday. The final score read 5-2 | |
The ‘mentally weak England side’ is right up there in the list of most cliched things anyone’s ever said about English football, tucked between the ‘very physical defender’ and the ‘lion-hearted midfielder’. It’s been spewed by everyone, right from Fabio Capello to Jamie Carragher, and we hear it every time the English team turns up at a World Cup.
On Saturday, as England went two behind at the Salt Lake within thirty minutes of their first ever U-17 World Cup final, pundits and journalists back home must have been sharpening their knives, with the same old cliched edge. England couldn’t handle the pressure of a World Cup final. How else could one explain the tournament’s best defence conceding two in thirty minutes?
But as the last of English goals went in, as Phil Foden and his mates rushed to the railings in ecstasy, as Steve Cooper, on the touchline, stole steps out of a 70s Hollywood musical, mental fragility was the last charge anyone could rail against this English side. Their comeback was not of the fortuitous variety, for it was brutal. When England’s fifth goal went in, Spain’s players stood around, not knowing what hit them.
The comeback was made even more memorable by the fact that it brought to fore, some of the very best things about this English team. Scoring the first of their goals was Rhian Brewster, the Liverpool forward who took home the Golden Shoe. Both Brewster’s first and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s second had the same creator — the effervescent wingback Steven Sessegnon. And popping up to score both the third and the fourth was the tournament’s best player, the Golden Ball winner, Foden. The Man- chester City player could have been declared the find of the tournament, if it were not for the fact that the world found him in June, when he gave Manchester United’s senior team twisted blood in a pre-season friendly. ‘A special player’ is how Pep Guardiola chose to describe Foden then. That opinion can only have been enhanced after the tournament he has had.
But for large stretches of the first half, it was Spain who looked like they would triumph. England had begun the game like they ended it, well on top. Barely a minute had passed when England forced the first save of the game. Foden and Brewster wove an intricate web of passes to put Morgan Gibbs-White through on goal, but the Spanish custodian Alvaro Fernandez denied him with a fingertip save.
But just when England taking the lead looked inevitable, some bad defending put them one behind with ten minutes gone. Abel Ruiz broke down the right and floated in a cross that took a deflection before Gomez bundled it home. The Barcelona striker initially looked offside, but replays showed that Sessegnon had played him on. It was bad defending, for the cross should not have reached Gomez in the first place.
If the first goal was down to poor defending, the second one, just after the half-hour mark, was football of the highest order, a goal worthy of winning any final. Ruiz broke down the left this time and crossed the ball to Cesar Gelabert. The latter was in a position to take shot himself, but instead opted to lump it up to Gomez. His finish was exquisite, a volley that left Anderson helpless. It was one of the goals of the tournament, and for some time, it looked like the one that would win it too. Foden & Co. though had other plans.
The U-17 World Cup final saw an attendance of 66,684, the maximum capacity of the venue.
England players celebrate their win against Spain in the final of the Under-17 World Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday. The Young Lions emulated their U-20 counterparts who had won the World Cup earlier this year