Young England on top of the world
Cooper’s side rally from 2-0 down to stun Spain Two-goal Foden named player of the tournament
England Under-17 head coach Steve Cooper believes his team’s stunning World Cup final victory over Spain proves the senior national side could be set for a brilliant future after an unprecedented year of success at junior level.
Cooper’s side rallied from two goals behind as goals from Rhian Brewster, Morgan Gibbs-White, Phil Foden (2) and Marc Guehi sealed a sensational 5-2 win in front of 67,000 fans.
The victory comes four months after the Under-20 side won their World Cup in South Korea, while this summer there was further success at Under-19 level, where England won the European Championship. The Under-21s lost at the semi-final stage of their European Championship.
And Cooper believes the success of all England’s junior teams shows the future is bright at senior level.
“I’m speechless, the feeling is a little bit surreal,” he said. “But we are worthy winners in my opinion, for the amount of goals we scored, the amount of goals conceded, the football we’ve played, the individual talent. To be 2-0 down in a World Cup final and come back to win 5-2 tells you everything about the character of England players.
“It’s recognition not just for where English football is but where it can go. To think we’re holders of not just the Under-17 World Cup but also the Under-20s is pretty special.
“We’re building for the future and that’s the way to do it.”
Foden was named player of the tournament and his manager at club level, Pep Guardiola, immediately tipped the 17-year-old to make the step up for both club and country, saying his experience in India would make a huge difference to his development.
“What position did he play?” Guardiola asked when informed of Foden’s performance in the final. “When I find out, I will put him in this position if he scores two goals in the final!
“He’s trained with us [the senior team] every single day. Of course, he is just 17. He is a young player. He is a player in our squad. Every day he is in the locker room with our guys.
“That is the best way to learn, from the experienced guys, about what it means to be at a high level.
“It is so important for Manchester City, for him, for everybody, that he played at a high, high level in that competition. We cannot forget. He played at a World Cup – England are world champions at that age. When that guy grows and plays in a World Cup in the future, he has lived that situation before and knows what he has to do.”
Congratulations and good wishes flowed in immediately after the game, led by Prince William, who tweeted: “Congratulations to @England on becoming World Champions in an amazing U17WorldCupFinal. This is the second World Cup our YoungLions have won this year – hugely exciting moment for the future of English foot- ball.” And Cooper confirmed the celebrations had already started.
“There’s probably a dance-off going on in the changing rooms”, he laughed. “The way they’ve conducted themselves, not just as players but as ambassadors for our country, their clubs and families has made me very proud.”
“We knew they couldn’t keep up with us if we just kept playing our game”, said goalkeeper Curtis Anderson, also of Manchester City. “Our fitness is important”, he added, “and we’ve played in this city six times so we got used to the heat”. By the final whistle, Spain looked sapped, while England looked like they could play another match.
Once again England have won a World Cup – and this time in the most thrilling way possible.
The Under-17s came from behind to beat Spain in a final they dominated in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta. This is the second England age-group team to win the game’s ultimate honour this year, following on from the Under-20s in the summer.
After a shaky start, in which it seemed Spain would repeat their victory over England in the Under-17s European Championship earlier this year, a seemingly unstoppable England comeback saw them score five goals without response.
Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster led the way with a goal just before half-time after Spain had hit England with two classic counters to go 2-0 ahead, via Sergio Gomez.
Brewster ended the tournament as the Golden Boot winner with hat-tricks in the quarter and semi-finals, and his strike in the final was his eighth goal in the competition.
It was a sultry night in Calcutta’s VYBK Stadium, during which it was clear England had made many new friends over the two weeks of the competition.
Their swashbuckling performances en route to the showpiece final had seemingly made them the local supporters’ second favourite team. St George flags adorned the faces of many fans. By the end a section with strong Indian accents was chanting Phil Foden’s name.
England went straight on the offensive, with Morgan Gibbs-White of Wolves finding himself in front of goal in the first minute, managing to get off a shot but seeing it sail wide.
It was end-to-end stuff from the start, characteristic of this age group, relatively unencumbered as they are with rigid systems. England looked to be playing a 4-3-3 that sometimes seemed to morph into a more effective 3-1-3-3, allowing Chelsea defenders Marc Guehi and George McEachran to marshal the space between midfield and the back three.
With an attendance of 66,684 the week after Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, the crowd were here for a cracker, and what they got was a match that pulsated with scintillating play.
In the ninth minute a great cross to Cesar Gelabert, of Real Madrid, saw the striker scuff his shot, but the alert Gomez turned the loose ball into England’s net.
After that Spain took the game to England, the muscular and skilful Abel Ruiz proving a menace. When Spain’s second came in the 28th minute, it was a three-man move involving skipper Ruiz, Gelabert and Gomez, with the captain going on a mazy run before releasing Gelabert, who then unselfishly dinked it to Gomez to score.
It seemed England were to be blighted by frustration. Foden was instrumental in many attacks but kept dragging his shots and crosses wide. Callum Hudson-Odoi, of Chelsea, kept making surging runs only to lose the ball. However, both players were simply outstanding in the second half.
As Brewster made it 2-1 with a header and the teams jogged off at half-time it seemed pretty even, but in 10 decisive minutes England not only wrestled back control of the match but did it so emphatically and with such poise that Spain simply could not recover.
The entire England attack, at times moving even into a 4-2-4, it seemed, went for it – and were rewarded by an equaliser in the 56th minute when Gibbs-White, of Wolves, tapped in from a few yards.
After that England suddenly looked refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to take the game to Spain again.
In the 68th minute, Hudson-Odoi rushed through Spain’s defence and squared to Foden for the midfielder to make it 3-2.
England’s captain, Joel Latibeaudiere, had a commanding game and was involved in England sealing the win. A foul on Hudson-Odoi saw the winger take the free-kick himself: it was nodded down by the skipper and finished off by defender Guehi.
When the fifth goal came in the 87th minute, again it was Hudson-Odoi linking up with Foden, and again it resulted in a wonderful goal.
Spain, for all their threat and composure in the first half had simply been hit by a storm of trickery, bravado and patience, and some of that boiled over into petulance at the end of the game. But it was England’s night, and the crowd leapt to their feet to touch the winning team as they celebrated with sections of the fans on the final whistle.
Field of dreams: The England team pose after lifting the Under-17 World Cup thanks to a stunning fightback that resulted in a 5-2 defeat of Spain in front of a 67,000 crowd in Calcutta
World at his feet: Phil Foden, the Manchester City junior, races off to celebrate scoring for England against Spain in Calcutta yesterday