U17 World Cup: England coach Steve Cooper - 'We will never class ourselves as favourites'

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Young Lions coach Steve Cooper rubbished suggestions that his side would go into the final of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup as favourites...

England coach Steve Cooper was ecstatic at the chance to play in Kolkata again for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup summit clash against Spain on Saturday.

“We are pleased to be back here. It is a magnificent stadium, great experience we had so far and we have got the results in our favour which makes it even better. To think that we are playing a world cup final here is something to get excited about,” Cooper said at the pre-match press conference.

In a match which will be a repeat of the Euro Under-17 Championship final in May this year, Cooper said the defeat in that tie would not be on the back of their minds ahead of Saturday.

“I think in the Euros we were fantastic. It was these boys’ first ever official tournament. We played well and got so close. The performance was everything to be proud of. But that’s gone now, we will not be looking back. All we are looking at is the future, tomorrow is obviously a big stage. The only thing we are focused now is tomorrow’s final,” he said.

The football his Young Lions squad has played has caught the imagination of many and Cooper said that is the continuation of good work from the English FA with the St. George’s Park project and hoped the effort would bear fruit soon at the senior levels too.

“We have a plan at the St. George ’s Park and a big part of the plan is to how we play. They are still very young. We have made a good start. Nobody is getting excited, nobody is getting carried away. Our long term aim is to win world cup at the senior level and other championship. If these boys keep their standards in the long term we can achieve greatly with the senior teams,” Cooper said.

With many tagging the Young Lions as the favourites for Saturday’s encounter, the coach said that he had never looked at his side as the same.

“We will never class ourselves as favourites, particularly in a game like tomorrow. We have to be respectful of our opponents. It’s flattering its people consider us as favourites for the World Cup final. But we will never consider that. We have already lost the Euro finals against Spain so how can we be favourites tomorrow?”

Cooper said there were chinks in Spanish armour which his side would look to exploit.

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“For Spain they are fitting World Cup finalists, congratulations to them. They are an amazing team overall, we respect them. We know where their strength lies as well as the areas we can exploit. Because of that we will be going into the game confident. If we get things right we could play well,” he said.

The English coach remained wary of the threat posed by Spain’s Abel Ruiz and Ferran Torres but said that they were not focusing on individual players.

“We are confident in all areas. Torres and Ruiz are really good players but they are not the only two. Likewise with our boys, if you pick one or two you will be a little bit naïve as all the players are capable of making a difference. You won’t be successful at this level of tournament if you rely on one or two players,” he said.

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