2017, by all means, has been England’s year in Junior football. Even prior to the U17 World Cup, England teams in all age levels had done the country proud. The U21 team reached the semi-finals, while the England U17 Team were runners-ups in their respective European championships. Whereas the U19’s won the competition. The biggest prize thus far was the U20 side winning the world cup. The U17 world cup in India provided them the chance to make it the perfect year. Their squad on paper filled people with hope as many youth followers and analyst called it the “strongest side England has ever sent to a World Cup”.
England were a part of group F with Iraq, Mexico, and Chile. It turned out to be a group, which England breezed through. None of these team could even give England a modest challenge as the young lions cruised through the group as table toppers.
The Round of 16 turned out to be a different story altogether, where Japan gave them a stern test. The game went to penalties where the English players kept their composure to progress to the next round. The Quarters final were a much simpler occasion as England thrashed U.SA 4-1. The Semifinal saw England presented with a giant opponent in Brazil. It promised to be a tough game but England showed their class and came out as 3-1 winners.
The final saw them pitched up against Spain, the same opponent who beat them in the Euro finals only a few months ago. Only 30 minutes into the match, England found themselves 2-0 down. The history of English would suggest one to think that the team would crumble and capitulate in this situation. One would not have insane to think that the match was over at that time. But who knew the match had barely started. These group of youngsters showcased to the world why they are different. Pulling off the most remarkable World Cup Final comeback, England came out as 5-2 winners. Unlike many senior English teams, these boys exhibited their hype on the pitch.
The England U17 Team was brimming with talent but few of them caught the eye more than others.
Phil Foden- While a lot impressed in the tournament, attacking midfielder Phil Foden stole the show. The Golden ball winner was without a doubt the anchor of the Young Lions’s campaign. One cannot say that it has been a surprise. The Manchester City academy graduate had caught the eye in the preseason for the senior team while putting in an impressive performance against Manchester United. Pep Guardiola has spoken highly about him on multiple occasions.
Rhian Brewster- The winner of the Golden Boot with 8 goals. What more needs to be said about a man that scored a hattrick in both the Quarter Finals and Finals. He also scored England’s first goal in the final. The Liverpool boy has certainly been England’s star in the tournament. To have the composure to score such important goals describes a lot of the player’s talent and temperament.
Hudson Odoi- The Chelsea winger was very influential in the Young Lion’s victory. While he might have only 1 goal to show for it, his job as a creator cannot be undermined. One only has to look at how he made the difference in the final at a decisive time. His brilliant run and assist for Phil Foden’s first goal night exhibited his talent and also gave England the lead. Even the best of teams could not stop his magic on the left wing throughout the tournament.
The u17 world cup is by no means a fluke. It has been a culmination of a fantastic year for England’s junior football teams. So the question arises, how has the sudden transformation happened?
The answer lies with the Premier League and its clubs. The English team consisted of 5 Chelsea players and 3 Manchester City players. The work and success of their academy and youth teams are well documented. While these two have been the pioneers of the English teams, academies across England have done a brilliant job and which is being reflected on the pitch
Despite the fantastic work of the Junior side, the fact remains that England’s senior team is a laughing stock at the moment. The last two major tournaments have seen England crash out in embarrassing fashion. At the moments, it is likely to repeat in Russia next year too. England’s upcoming promise to more than change things. But, seeing the state of English football and the FA for years, it is more likely that they will find a ruin these players rather than fulfill their potential.
The biggest problem for the England U17 Team has been the big clubs not giving youngsters an opportunity. While Chelsea and Manchester make up a large proposition of the youth sides, their record in bringing academy players through to the first team is extremely poor. It is unacceptable and all clubs have to take greater initiative to ensure English football can optimally utilize the potential of this new found golden generation. One could say English players would be better off making the move abroad like another member of this u17 side Jadan Sancho (called back by the club after the group stage having scored 3 goals) who moved to Borussia Dortmund from Manchester City in the summer.