Sports Steamroll

The English team celebrates after winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 Final against Spain at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata Oct. 29, 2017. (Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS photo)

KOLKATA — England rallied brilliantly to wipe out a two-goal deficit and steamroll Spain 5-2 in a thrilling final to annex their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup title here Oct. 28.

Phillip Foden – later adjudged the golden ball winner for his superb display – struck a brace (69th and 88th minutes), and Rhian Brewster (44th), Morgan Gibbs-White (58th) and Marc Guehi (84th) scored one apiece for England who continued its dream run of 2017, having earlier clinched the U-20 World Cup and the U-19 European championships.

For Spain, Sergio Gomez scored both goals (10th, 31st), before a capacity crowd of more than 66,000, who cheered on both teams, making it a cracker of an atmosphere at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.

Spain was clinical in the first half, playing a beautiful attacking game, while allowing England 58 percent of the possession. 

But Steve Cooper's charges were all over their opponents after the breather, with Foden pulling the strings by operating from the right. He and Callum Hudson-Odoi struck up a fine combination from the right, that pulverized the Spanish defense in the second session.

Spain took an early lead through a combined move. From left, skipper Abel Ruiz fed Juan Miran, who crossed for Cesar Gelabert. The Real Madrid forward headed down, and Gomez tapped in from close.

La Rojita doubled the margin, with the Barcelona forward striking again. Ruiz sent a deep cross from the right, Gomez controlled the ball well, and then let go a rasping left footer on the bounce into the far corner of the net.

Down 0-2, England boys made a determined bit to come back into the game, and came close to scoring twice.

First, Foden headed wide, and then Hudson-Odoi fired a right footer from 20 yards, that swerved and crashed into the base of the far post.

England, however, kept up the momentum, and reduced the margin close to half.

Steven Sessegnon crossed from the right into the six yard box, and Brewster headed home to take his goal tally to eight in the tournament. The Liverpool forward, who struck back-to-back hat-tricks in the quarter-final and semi-final, won the golden boot.

The England surge continued, and they earned a free kick right outside the penalty area in the first half stoppage time, but Brewster's swerving shot was tipped over by Spain goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez. At half time, Spain led 2-1.

Crossing over, England upped the ante further, and in the 53rd minute, Foden's low shot was deflected for a corner by the Spanish goalkeeper, but England did not have to wait for more than five minutes to draw level.

The fabulous Foden essayed a lovely pass to Sessegnon, who sent in a ground pass and Gibbs-White finished.

The Spanish seemed rudderless before the English onslaught, and midway into the session, Hudson-Odoi sprinted down the left, essaying a delicate cross into the middle, and Foden stabbed home. England now led 3-2, and there were wild cries of "Foden, Foden" in the stands with many waving the St Georges Cross.

Six minutes from regulation time, England skipper Joel Latibeaudiere headed down a free kick, and Guehi put the ball in. The celebrations in the English camp became louder.

Soon enough it turned into wild scenes of jubilation as Foden made it 5-2, and the entire English reserve bench including Cooper ran all the way near the corner flag to celebrate with Foden as other teammates joined in the party.

It was a sweet revenge for England who lost to Spain 1-4 on penalties in the final of the UEFA U-17 European Championships in May.

England coach Cooper later said he was proud of the performance put up by his charges as they stuck to the game plan even after falling behind..

"I do not know and I am just so proud of the performance... 2-0 down...we just played our way and we didn't stop. We stuck to our game plan and our style."

"We are building for future and that is the way to do it," he said.

Spain coach Santiago Denia said England's first goal scored by Brewster "really hurt us."

"We had our composure when we are 2-0 up. But the first goal was a setback. The match was under our control when it was 3-2. But after that we went on all-out attack and left spaces in the defense, which England exploited," Denia said.

"It's easy to say this now. I really did not think there was real panic. We should have scored in the first minutes was it? We the ones who took the initiative... we pressed a lot higher and played forward a lot more," Cooper, with the trophy in front of him, told reporters.

"We were even in control of the game being 2-0 down. We stuck to our plan. Halftime talk was positive and we played good football without that cutting edge," Cooper said. 

"To be 2-0 down in a World Cup (final) and in my opinion against the run of play... To comeback and win 5-2 tells you everything about the character of English players," he said.

Cooper reserved special praise for India as hosts and especially Kolkata, where England played six of their seven World Cup matches.

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