England, Spain battle for U-17 crown

England, Spain battle for U-17 crown
England's Rhian Brewster (L) celebrates after scoring the 3-1 lead during the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017 semi final match between Brazil and England at Salt Lake stadium in Calcutta, eastern India, 25 October 2017. England won 3-1. EPA/PIYAL ADHIKARY

by Graeme Jackson

Thursday Oct 26, 2017. 18:30

England and Spain will battle for the right to be called U-17 World Cup winners when they meet in the final at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday, kick-off at 16h30 CAT.

England’s path to the final has seen them top Group F ahead of Iraq, Mexico and Chile, before defeating Japan on penalties, United States 4-1 and Brazil 3-1 in the last 16, quarterfinals and semifinals respectively.

Steve Cooper’s Young Three Lions have been one of the best balanced teams at the tournament, scoring a total of 18 goals while conceding just four at the other end. In striker Rhian Brewster - who has netted successive hat-tricks in the last two rounds - they have the tournament’s leading scorer with seven strikes thus far.

"The players will be planned and prepared for it [the final]," said coach Cooper. "We're really enjoying being out here and we have a great opportunity to make history, but we know the experience will serve us for the future as well."

Spain, meanwhile, ousted one of the tournament favourites Mali in the semifinals, putting in a controlled performance to quell the Africans’ superior physicality and claim a 3-1 triumph.

La Rojita have lost just once in this tournament: a group stage defeat at the hands of Brazil - the same team England overcame in the semis.

Spain and England will be renewing their rivalry just over five months after they met in the final of the U-17 European Championships in Croatia. That match finished 2-2 before Spain won 4-1 on penalties.

“We do have to prepare. We know we have beaten them in the final of the Euro in Croatia,” said Spain coach Santiago Denia after the semifinal against Mali. “England has improved and we need to improve on things we did today.”

Both teams will be looking for their first-ever U-17 World Cup title. While this will be England’s first appearance in the championship match, Spain have appeared in three previous finals - 1991, 2003 and 2007 - all of which they lost.

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