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

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - vishnu.prasad@newin­di­an­ex­

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

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