Wow! England have won the World Cup!! The under 17s Final was not only a huge triumph for England’s developing players it was a great watch. World Cup Final’s are usually pretty awful- the last good one at senior level was 1986.
This match was a revelation, in front of 60,000 in Kolkata England started brightly but it was Spain who got the early goal through Sergio Gomez despite a suspicion of offside 0-1 after 10 minutes.
England continued to press with Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi a constant threat down the left whilst Spain counter attacked at pace and looked compact in defence.
On 30 minutes Sergio Gomez again was in the right place to strike beautifully from the edge of the box 0-2 after half an hour.
Spain grew in confidence and were knocking the ball around nicely and for 10 minutes looked in control. But England kept coming, dominating possession and probing for the opening- it almost arrived after 41 minutes when Hudson-Odoi broke into the box and fizzed an effort onto the post. 2 minutes later they got their goal- Phil Foden & Steven Sessegnon combined down the right and a perfect cross fell for the prolific Rhian Brewster to slam home 1-2.
Spain were rattled and a clumsy challenge on the edge of the box gifted England a free kick, which Fernandez tipped over from Brewster with the final action of the half.
The second half started with Spain happy to sit behind the ball and England pressing, As the game wore on England winger Foden became more involved, in Foden England have a rare player of creativity and vision- the last time I saw an English youth team player this technically good was in the 1993 FA Youth Cup Final: said player was Paul Scholes.
England were growing wise to Spain’s quick counter attacking which caused such damage in the first half and the game was being played almost entirely in Spain’s half with the dangerous Sergio Gomez looking increasingly isolated. On 57 minutes England equalised with Foden again feeding Sessegnon whose cross was met by Morgan Gibbs-White 2-2.
The pace slowed in the Indian heat and on 69 minutes Hudson Odoi broke past a tiring Spanish defence to present the ball on a plate to Foden for 3-2. Spain pushed for an equaliser and a goalmouth scramble was cleared off the line by Sessegnon, but England continued to look a threat and found far more space with the Spanish pushing players forward.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes Spain looked desperate, on 83 minutes a cynical pullback on Hudson Odoi gifted England a free kick on the left of the box and a well worked moved saw centre half Marc Guehi break free and lash home the killer fourth goal.
With the game winding down a sublime cross field ball from Hudson Odoi played in Foden who stroked home for 5-2 and England were World Under17 Champions. Foden picked up the player of the tournament award and Brewster the golden shoe for his 8 goals.
The standard of play was exceptional, England were to a man (or boy more accurately) brilliant. England have become the first nation to win 3 FIFA affiliated youth tournaments in a calendar year following the Under 20 World Cup & Under 19 European Championships. In addition England won the Toulon tournament for a second year on the bounce and this under 17 group were a penalty shoot out away from winning the U17 Euros to boot. The challenge ahead is of course to make sure these boys get the opportunity to flourish in senior football- but that argument is for another day- this was day will live long in the annals of English Football, after the disaster of Iceland hope is being restored.