History was written at the ‘Salt Lake Stadium’ in Kolkata, which is popularly known as the ‘Mecca of Football in India’ on Saturday when it hosted probably the most lionised Football match on Indian soil, the FIFA U-17 World Cup Final.
One of the largest stadiums in Asia, the ‘Salt Lake’ with attendance exceeding 68000 became the fortress for the battleground between the two European heavyweights ‘England’ and ‘Spain’. The last time these two sides met was in the U-17 European Championship Finals hosted by Croatia in the current year when Spain convincingly defeated the English team following a penalty shoot-out. However, the story on Oct. 28, 2017, was an altogether a different with the game starting with the Spanish finesse, taking a 2-0 lead and ending with an English topping sealing the World Cup with a score line of 2-5.
A fleeting Spanish dominance
Santiago Denia’s side got an early breakthrough with a goal coming right in the 10th minute from the Catalan ‘Sergio Gomez’, and Spain were 1-0 up. The English side despite having 65% of possession struggled to capitalise on the crosses from the flanks.
The Spanish defenders were properly checking and man-marking their counterparts, with ‘Rhian Brewster’ and ‘Phil Foden’ struggling to find space for movement. The Reds seemed convincing in interjections through the English midfield and in the 21st minute, ‘Mohamed Moukhliss’ was one-on-one with the English goalkeeper ‘Curtis Anderson’, who comfortably denied the Spaniard’s run from the halfway line as his last touch was too heavy to edge past the Manchester City based goalkeeper.
Denia’s side got a second goal cushion when the Captain ‘Abel Ruiz’ assisted ‘Sergio Gomez’ in the box, who was left unmarked, quickly capitalised with the twist and turn drawing a comfortable shooting angle to get it past Curtis. The scoreline was apparently in favour of the Spaniards, reading 2-0.
A crucial English comeback just before half-time
Taking note of the situation, Steve Cooper’s side went charging on through flanks from then on. The game started gaining momentum with relatively more English involvement and in the 43rd minute, ‘Callum Hudson Odoi’, a Chelsea based winger, curled it past ‘Alvaro Fernandez’, but it hit the woodwork. A sigh of vigor and intensity was clearly visible on the English flanks and midfield, following that attempt by ‘Hudson’.
The Spanish defenders were pushed deep inside the box thereby leaving plenty of space for the English wingers to charge and right in the 44th minute, the English wonder lad ‘Rhian Brewster’, assisted through a cross by ‘Steven Sessegnon’ headed it past ‘Alvaro’. It was Brewster’s 8th goal of the competition, and the scoreline at the half-time whistle read 2-1. With such shifted momentum, there seemed to have an atmosphere of anticipation on the field for the action in the next three quarters.
An epitome of English masterclass
The post half-time game was one-way affair from the English gunners. Just like the first-half, the Spanish side were committing serious defensive errors by giving huge spaces in the wings, and the boys-in-white took no time to capitalise on the flaws. Right in the 58th minute, the most experienced in the English squad ‘Morgan Gibbs White’, assisted through Sessegnon’s cross, had all the time in the world to comfortably beat ‘Alvaro’ and change the scoreboard to 2-2.
This was Gibb’s second goal of the competition, first being against the USA. The Spanish shoulders on the field were down following such drastic turnaround in the scoreboard. The Reds now were forced to adopt aggressive tactics and in the 63rd minute, came the first booking of the match, with ‘Juan Miranda’ getting charged.
The ball kept rolling in the Spanish box for most of the time, and the decider from the English side came in the 69th minute, followed by a clinical finish by the City forward ‘Phil Foden’ assisted by ‘Hudson Odoi’.
The body language of players from either team was justifiable from the scoreboard, which now seemed to be in favour of the English side, reading 2-3. ‘Denia’ was forced to make a substitution by bringing ‘Jose Lara’ in for ‘Cesar Gelabart’ in the 73rd minute expecting the fresh boots to make an impact; however the game had already swung in England’s way and the Spanish, apparently had given up.
Icing on the Cake
The Spaniards struggled to keep hold of the ball and in the 84th minute, ‘Hudson Odoi’ was fouled by ‘Mateu Morey’, and the English side were awarded a free-kick near the Spanish box. After a couple of touches following the free-kick, it was Centre-back ‘Marc Guehi’ who sealed the game for his team with a short-range flick in the box getting past ‘Alvaro’.
The celebrations from the English side were undoubtedly enough to recite the entire story. The players knew they had tasted victory now, with the scoreboard reading 2-4. Among the on-field English lads, the player who gave a stand out performance reflecting his quick foot movement, agility, speed and finish was seemingly the City based ‘Phil Foden’, who went on to put an icing on the cake in the dying minutes of the second half. The 17-year-old went on to win the ‘Golden Ball Award’ in the post-match ceremony. The final scoreline at the ‘Salt Lake’ read England (5)- Spain (2).
Future looks promising
It took 51 years for ‘Great Britain’ to get its hands on a FIFA World Cup trophy and with young guns like Phil Foden, Callum Hudson Odoi and Rhian Brewster lining up for the senior National team in a couple of years, the future of English football looks promising.
Over the years, the Spanish side too have deeply relied on the U-16 and U-17 squad, be it the likes of ‘Cesc Fabregas’, Isco Alarcon’ and many more. The Spanish side were convincing all throughout the tournament with just one defeat before the finals from the hands of ‘Brazil’ in their first group stage match.
The standouts from the Reds were ‘Abel Ruiz’, ‘Ferran Torres’ and ‘Sergio Gomez’. Having a background of European giants like ‘Real Madrid’ and ‘FC Barcelona’, these young lads have certainly grabbed eyeballs from the clubs around the world and with Spanish Senior National team undergoing an experimental upgrade taking into account its last few performances in major European and World tournaments, these players might have a bright opportunity to play for the Spanish colours.