Kolkata: A star-studded England will take on unpredictable Chile in a Group F match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the refurbished Salt Lake Stadium, here tomorrow.
The gigantic Salt Lake Stadium, officially known as Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), will host an official match after a hiatus of more than one year and eight months.
It was on January 27, 2016 that the Salt Lake Stadium last hosted an official game, an AFC Champions League qualifier between Mohun Bagan and Tampines Rovers of Singapore.
620 days later, it may have shrunk in size — with an official capacity of 66687 to what was once a colossal 120,000 — but has become snazzier and is ready to host the summit clash of the ongoing World Cup on October 28.
The football-loving crowd of the city are expected to fill up to the brim in the decked-up stadium when the Group F matches gets underway tomorrow.
The Group F is a tough group with all the four teams, including two-time champions Mexico and Iraq, who open later in the evening, having the potential to make it to the last 16 round.
In such a scenario, the Steve Cooper-coached England, fresh from a 3-2 defeat of New Zealand in a warm-up match in Mumbai, would look for a strong start against the Latin American side, who are having a difficult time with the searing heat and humidity of Kolkata.
On paper, England boast of a strong squad in Manchester United starlet Angel Gomes and Jadon Sancho, who made an Euro 8 million move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund during close season.
The two along with Phil Foden are billed as the next big stars and it will be exciting to see how the Chilean defence contain the English trio.
An attacking midfielder, Gomes has already set a milestone in the Premier League, making a debut at 16.
Gomes became the first Premier League player to be born in the 2000s when he replaced Wayne Rooney with two minutes left in Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on the last day of the season.
Even star duo of Ronaldinho and Cristiano Ronaldo have been impressed with Gomes and he will be the one to watch out in England’s scheme of things.
England’s previous two U-17 World Cup expeditions have been hosted by two of their group opponents, Chile and Mexico.
England travelled to Chile for the 2015 edition of the competition, when Cooper was on the coaching staff as Neil Dewsnip’s assistant.
After beating the host nation in a pre-tournament friendly in Santiago, England were eliminated in the group stage.
Prior to that, England’s 2011 campaign saw John Peacock’s side reach quarterfinal in Mexico, their best ever finish.
Chile, who featured in 2015 by virtue of being the hosts, have qualified for the first time since 1997 after finishing runners-up to Brazil in the South American U-17 Championship.
But the Hernan Caputo-coached side is struggling with heat and humidity despite a strong preparation that included taking yoga classes and training in sauna-like conditions.
“We can get hot weather but our humidity is very low. This time of the year it is colder and very dry in Chile than here,” Chile team doctor Cesar Kalazich had said.
“And we weigh them before and after training. This has to do with fluid loss. We also check the density of the urine before and after training.”
Chile boast of a strong defence and their goalkeeper Julio Borquez was adjudged best goalkeeper in the South American Championship and it remains to be seen how they hold fort against a strong England forward line-up.
Chile’s best finish was third in their maiden appearance in 1993.
England: Curtis Anderson, Josef Bursik, William Crelin, Timothy Eyoma, Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guéhi, Jonathan Panzo, Lewis Gibson, Steven Sessegnon, Morgan Gibbs White, Tashan Oakley Boothe, Conor Gallagher, Angel Gomes, Nya Kirby, George McEachran, Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson Odoi, Philip Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Rhian Brewster, Danny Loader.
Chile: Julio Borquez, Rodrigo Cancino, Hugo Araya, Gaston Zuniga, Matias Silva, Lucas Alarcon, Sebastian Valencia, Nicolas Aravena, Yerco Oyanedel, Maximiliano Guerrero, Mauricio Morales, Martin Lara, Oliver Rojas, Branco Provoste, Diego Valencia, Pedro Campos, William Gama, Ignacio Contreras, Ignacio Mesias, Jairo Vasquez, Antonio Diaz.
Match starts: 1700 IST.