England produced a sensational performance to come from 2-0 down to thrash Spain 5-2 and win the Under-17 World Cup in India.
The Three Lions had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in the tournament before but emulated England U20s who won their World Cup in June.
The margin of victory did not flatter Steve Cooper’s side, who were superb throughout and could consider themselves unlucky to fall behind to a double from Barcelona forward Sergio Gomez.
Heads did not drop, and from the moment Wolves forward Morgan Gibbs White added to Rhian Brewster’s eighth goal of the tournament to equalise, England looked the most likely to go on and win.
Phil Foden, an outstanding talent for Manchester City and the man of the match, stole in at the back post to put England ahead, and slotted in the fifth late on with a neat shot.
Chelsea defender Marc Guehi also got on the scoresheet, prodding home the fourth from close range, as England avenged Spain’s victory in the European Championship final back in May.
The stereotypical roles of the two nations were reversed, as England bossed possession and Spain looked to hit on the counter, a tactic that worked as Gomes twice profited from half-cleared balls inside the area.
Those goals were two of just five Spanish efforts on target though, while England had 25 shots on goal, 11 of which found the target.
Liverpool striker Brewster secured the tournament’s golden boot with the header that put the game back within reach but it was the players just behind him who really stood out.
In player of the tournament Foden and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, this England side had the players to seriously hurt Spain, almost at will in the second half.
Fulham right-back Steven Sessegnon also impressed, setting up the first two goals with powerful overlapping runs, while another major player, Jadon Sancho, was not involved at all after being recalled by new club Borussia Dortmund.
Sancho has already made his Bundesliga debut. How long until we see some of this squad playing in the Premier League? Foden, for example, was told by his Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola that he would have played in the League Cup this week had he not gone to India.
Are England on the up?
It may be 21 years since England’s senior men’s team reached the last four of a major tournament, and the Football Association may be having a bad time of things off the pitch, but on it, at all other levels, the signs are good.
England won the European Under-19 Championship with a 2-1 victory over Portugal in Georgia in July, the Under-20s won the World Cup in June, Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21s lost on penalties to Germany (some things never change) at the semi-final stage this summer and this Under-17 side lost the Euros final to Spain on penalties in May.
Under Mark Sampson England’s women reached the semi-finals of the last World Cup and European Championship.
Does this victory mean that success for the senior men’s team could be close?
Four years ago then FA chairman Greg Dyke said England should aim to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020 and win the World Cup in 2022.
That may still seem a long shot but there is undoubtedly progress being made at youth levels.
|England vs. major European rivals at major tournaments in 2017|
|Country||Under-17 Euros||Under-17 World Cup||Under-19 Euros||Under-20 World Cup||Under-21 Euros|
|England||Losing finalists (penalties)||Winners||Winners||Winners||Semi-finals (penalties)|
|France||Quarter-finals||Round of 16||DNQ||Round of 16||DNQ|
|Germany||Semi-finals||Quarter-finals||Group stages||Round of 16||Winners|
|Spain||Winners||Losing finalists||DNQ||DNQ||Losing finalists|
Man of the match – Phil Foden (Manchester City & England)
Line-ups & stats
England: Anderson (Man City); Sessegnon (Fulham), Guehi (Chelsea), Latibeaudiere (Man City), Panzo (Chelsea); McEachran (Chelsea), Oakley-Booth (Tottenham); Foden (Man City), Gibbs White (Wolves), Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea); Brewster (Liverpool)
Spain: Fernandez (Malaga); Jaume (Barcelona), Chust (Real Madrid), Guillamon (Valencia), Miranda (Barcelona); Blanco (Real Madrid), Moukhliss (Real Madrid); Gelabert (Real Madrid), Gomez (Barcelona), Torres (Valencia); Ruiz (Barcelona)
Possession: England 52%, Spain 48%
Attempts: England 25, Spain 11
Shots on target: England 11, Spain 5
Fouls: England 7, Spain 16