Since October 6th, several teams of youngsters have been battling to see who will be FIFA U17 World Cup champions. Hosts, India, put up a brave fight but came up short. After days of exciting football matches, it all comes down to this. England and Spain are set to face off in an all European showdown in the final tonight at 8:00pm in Kolkata. The two have faced off before their FIFA clash. Spain having had the better of England earlier in the year in the final of the European Championships in Croatia.
Joel Latibeaudiere leads the English side. They have gone from strength to strength and come into this final unbeaten with one eye on revenge. Latibeaudiere said, “The Euro final was a different experience for us and we have learnt and grown from that game. We are well prepared for Spain”. The English swatted away the challenges from USA and Brazil with some very vibrant football in the knockout stages. They have Rhian Brewster’s consecutive hat-tricks to thank for that. Wingers Callum Hudson-Odoi and Phil Foden have linked up with Brewster to form an attacking trio. This partnership has run most defences at this tournament ragged. Expect them to have the same kind intensity and bite against Hugo Guillamon and company.
The Lions have been fantastic upfront in attack and played a direct brand of football. But have not compromised on defence. The centre-back pairing of Latibeaudiere and Marc Guehi’s teamwork has ensured that England have kept three clean sheets and conceded only 4 times so far. They will have to be at their peak to silence the likes of Torres, Gomez and Ruiz for 90 minutes.
Barcelona product Abel Ruiz will lead Spain to rewrite the history books and emulate the senior team of 2010. Coach Santiago Dena said “We have not won the U-17 competition and we will go all out to make sure that changes”.
Abel Ruiz, Ferran Torres, Cesar Gelabart and Sergio Gomez have found the back of the net a total of 16 times so far. They will be hungry for more when they take the playing field at the Salt Lake Stadium for the first time. But, just as coach Denia pointed out, it is important to defend well too. “We like to play with the ball that is our style, but the most important thing is to realise that unless we attack well we can’t defend well, and vice versa.”
Guillamon and Alvaro have the task of keeping the defence intact against the top scorers of the tournament. Spain’s colts will need Alvaro Blanco to find his feet and set the tone for them from the midfield. “England have improved by leaps and bounds since the Euro final, and they are in the final because they worked well as a team all through.” coach Denia added. Both these teams have played Brazil at different stages of the tournament and their coach Carlos Amadeu seems to think the English have more of a physical presence than the tactical Spain.
England: Curtis Anderson, Josef Bursik, William Crelin; Timothy Eyoma, Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guehi, Jonathan Panzo, Lewis Gibson, Steven Sessegnon, Morgan Gibbs White, Tashan Oakley Boothe; Conor Gallagher, Angel Gomes, Nya Kirby, George McEachran; Callum Hudson Odoi, Philip Foden, Emile Smith Rowe, Rhian Brewster, Danny Loader
Spain: Alvaro Fernandez, Mateu Jaume, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamon, Victor Chust, Antonio Blanco, Ferran Torres, Mohamed Moukhliss, Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Nacho Diaz, Pedro Ruiz, Marc Vidal, Alvaro Garcia, Eric Garcia, Diego Pampin, Jose Lara, Cesar Gelabert, Carlos Beitia, Victor Perea, Alfonso Pastor.