The two European heavyweights will meet at the country’s iconic Salt Lake Stadium in what is sure to be a memorable conclusion to India’s first major FIFA event.
It is an event for which India has waited with bated breath for over four years and over the last three weeks it has captured the nation’s imagination with over a million fans turning in through the gates across six cities. Now, after 50 games between 24 teams, only two have been left standing and England will take on Spain at Kolkata’s iconic Salt Lake Stadium, in what is set to be a fitting finale to India’s first FIFA event.
The game sees a re-match of this year’s UEFA Euro U-17 Championship Final in which Spain edged the English on penalties in a tight contest. Both teams come into the tussle in fine form. England are the tournament’s only remaining unbeaten team and have made the City of Joy a second home playing five of their six games so far in the eastern hub.
On the other hand, the reigning European champions started slowly losing their first game against Brazil, but they have improved as the competition has progressed. There is little doubt that England will be keen to avenge their defeat in the continental final earlier this year, but it remains to be seen whether Steve Cooper‘s men can make the most of the relative home comforts in Kolkata.
Already well-accustomed with the humid weather in Kolkata, the England team is all healthy and are raring to go in the final. However, manager Cooper is expected to make one or two changes to his side, as Marc Guehi and Nya Kirby both are expected to start against the European champions on Saturday. The English are also expected to stick to their plan of the semi-final game against Brazil, where they sat deep down in the first half and also for some time in the second. This particular strategy helped them tire out their opposition and to launch quick counter-attacks which helped them bag three goals against the Latin Americans.
The European champions, on the other hand, are still adapting to the conditions in the city. The Spanish youngsters, who have played their matches at other venues throughout the country, are visiting Kolkata for the first time since their campaign in the FIFA U-17 World Cup began earlier this month and this could be a decisive factor against England. However, all the Spanish players are said to be healthy, which comes as welcome news for manager Santiago Denia, who is also expected to retain the lineup that defeated Mali to secure a position in the final.
Head to Head
This is the second meeting between the two sides who previously met at the European U-17 Championship final earlier this year which Spain edged on penalties.
Steve Cooper-England: With a chance of making the score even against the Spaniards, Cooper was asked about his side’s last experience against the Spanish a couple of months ago in Croatia.
“It was fantastic. It was these boys’ first big tournament,” Cooper answered before adding, “We are looking forward. We are going to focus on our performance tomorrow.” He also revealed that he is not considering any special preparation ahead of the match.
The English side has displayed a very distinctive approach to the game in the tournament, miles apart from what they are known for. While talking about it Cooper said, “The way we played out here is the way we intend to play. We have technically gifted players now.”
The English U-17 gaffer also praised his players for their performance throughout the tournament which have resulted in a final berth on Saturday. “I’m pleased the players have been able to perform to that level,” he said.
Talking about his plans against Spain, Cooper was rather secretive. “We have a plan in mind and this is it. I will commit to it, we will commit to it,” he said. “Any opposition we play, we treat them with the same respect and the same focus,” he added.
Santiago Denia-Spain: Spain coach Santiago Denia was asked about his side’s opponents in the final, England, when he said, “I think England has proved every aspect of the game.” However, Spain’s comparatively shabby defensive display clearly made him praise his opponents in the next game as he said, “Defensively, they are doing much better.”
Denia was asked if the absence of England’s wonderkid Jadon Sancho will help his side triumph over the English when he denied the advantage. “It’s clear that Sancho is a great player and has a great future ahead. But it’s not an individual game. It’s about how good they are as a team,” he said. Talking about advantages, Denia also spoke about the weather of the city, which England has already adapted well over five games since their campaign began in the tournament. “Basically we need to adapt quickly. We will see if it will be an advantage or not tomorrow,” he said.
The Spanish head coach was also asked about pressure and expectations for his side. “For us, there is no pressure. It’s the motivation that the team has done this before,” he answered, pointing out to the previous title-winning campaigns in the FIFA U-17 World Cup before. “To win, we have to be better than we were in the semifinal. We are working on it,” he concluded.
Watch FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017: The story so far
Man to Watch
Rhian Brewster-England: The Liverpool starlet only came to the fore at the business end of the tournament but comes into the game with a whopping seven goals in the bag and a hat-trick in the last match against Brazil. His ability to run into pockets of space in key areas and the clinical finishing he has already exhibited mean he will be a marked boy on Saturday evening.
Moreover, the striker is no slouch when it comes to pace and is a key component of England’s fast counter-attacks which have underpinned their strategy at the World Cup. As such, Brewster will once again be key if the English hope to keep the good times rolling in Kolkata.
Abel Ruiz-Spain: The Barcelona prodigy has been one of the stars of the tournament with his goalscoring powers coming to the fore in the knockout phase. Indeed, it was his brace that was the difference in La Rojas last-four clash with African favourites Mali.
Moreover, as the captain of the team, Ruiz has displayed exemplary leadership qualities to go with his football skills, at key times in different games. Like all top players, he has shown the ability to peak at the right time and is sure to relish the grand stage of the final.
England: Anderson (GK), Panzo, Guehi, Latibeaudiere, Sessegnon, McEachran, Foden, Oakley-Boothe, Hudson-Odoi, Kirby, Brewster.
Spain: Fernandez, Jaume, Miranda, Guillamon, Chust, Blanco, Moukhliss, Torres, Gomez, Gelabert, Ruiz.
Did You Know?
Spain have appeared at two previous FIFA U-17 World Cup Finals in 2003 and 2007. This is England’s first.
This is the first all-European final in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
England are on the cusp of winning two Junior World Cups in the same year after their U-20 team lifted the title at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea earlier this year.
The game will be Live on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 3 from 20:00 IST. Alternatively, you can catch the fastest Live commentary and all the build-up to the biggest football match on Indian soil from an hour earlier.
Match 51: Brazil Vs Mali (3rd Place Playoff)
Date: 28th October 2017
Venue: Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata
The match will be telecast Live on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 3 from 17:00 IST.