Kolkata : England swaggered their way into the FIFA U-17 World Cup triumph and the invigorating final against Spain was as much a celebration of attacking football as it was about an incredible turnaround. The Three Lions colts hammered The La Rojas juniors 5-2 in the highest-scoring final in the history of this age-group tournament.
England were two goal down just before the half time with Spain winger Sergio Gomez scoring in the 10th and 31st minutes, but the Three Lions rallied to pump in five goals, including four in the second half, through Phil Foden (69th and 88th), Rhian Brewster (44th), Morgan Gibbs White (58th) and Marc Guehi (84th). The spectacle was taking place in front of a capacity crowd of 66684 at the Salt Lake Stadium.
It was a treat to watch for the packed-to-the-rafters stadium as there were never a dull moment during the frantically fast-paced match with end-to-end action. England had never gone beyond the quarterfinal stage in their earlier attempts but they conquered the world this year and also avenged their loss to Spain in penalty shootouts in the European Championships in Croatia in May. The win in the all-European final also capped England Youth teams’ remarkable year. They had won the U-20 World Cup in South Korea earlier this year while their U-19 side had won the European championships. England now became the ninth champion of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Their striker Rhian Brewster also ended as the tournament’s highest scorer with eight goals to get the Golden Boot. Spain finished runners-up for the fourth time after 1991, 2003 and 2007.
The summit clash was a fitting finale for a tournament which has set the record of most attendance in its history. It has also become the highest scoring event with 177 goals from 52 matches.
The match started at a frantic pace and England had a chance as early as the first minute. Morgan Gibbs-White had a one-two with Brewster, before firing in a fierce low shot from just inside the penalty area, which Spain goalie Alvaro Fernandez palmed away. Spain hit back on the counter and took the lead in the 10th minute through Gomez. Off a fine pass from Abel Ruiz from the center, Juan Miranda sent a cross from the left which Gelabert managed to squeeze himself between two England defenders and flipped it in front for Gomez to do the rest.
The England defence had an average show and captain Joel Latibeaudiere, who has not put a foot wrong in this tournament till today, was outsmarted by his opposite number Abel Ruiz on occasions. Ruiz once again came up with a brilliant show, leading the Spain attack quite well. Just after the cooling break, Spain doubled the lead against the run of play. Assist master Cesar Gelabert worked some space on the right side of the penalty area and sent in a cross. It fell on Gomez’s path and he controlled it smartly and drilled in a thunderous strike with his left foot. The incredibly fast-paced first half, which saw action from one end to the other, gave promise of an even better second session when Brewster scored just a minute before the breather. An overlapping right full back Sessegnon was able to send in a cross for Brewster to finish with a fierce header that went in after touching the goalie’s fingers.
England had more possession and equal number of four shots on target in the first half and they regrouped and scored soon after resumption in the 58th minute through Morgan Gibbs-White. It was the spadework of Foden, the other outstanding England player of the day besides Hudson Odoi, that resulted in the equaliser. The Manchester City youth team player gave a wonderful defence splitting pass on the right and an overlapping Sessegnon sent in a first-time low cross for Gibbs-White to easily slot the ball home. As the match progressed, England began to take control of the proceedings with Spain rarely threatening the opposition goal.
It was 3-2 in favour of England in the 69th minute, with Foden scoring his first of the day by connecting a Hudson Odoi cross from the left without any challenge. It was all over for Spain when England struck their fourth of the day six minutes from time with central defender Marc Guehi adding his name in the scoresheet. Once again, Hudson-Odoi was the provider down the left after beating the Spanish full-back Mateu Jaume Morey with pace. He put the ball in for Foden who whipped it perfectly across the face of the goal where Guehi drove home.
It turned out to be rout four minute later as Foden again found the net in the 88th minute to cap a remarkable night for England.