India is all set to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, scheduled to kick off from 6th October. 24 countries from six confederations will be competing for one of the biggest honours in youth football, with the matches being hosted in six cities across the country.
In this segment, we take a look at England's U-17 team and guide you through their journey to the world cup, highlighting their strengths, tactics and key players.
Confederation: UEFA (Europe)
Nicknames: The Three Lions, Young Lions
Style of play: Traditional 4-3-3 formation
Coach: Steve Cooper
PAST RECORDS AND LAURELS
England have only qualified for the Under-17 World Cup on three occasions prior to this year's edition - in 2007, 2011 and 2015. The Three Lions reached the quarter finals in 2007, topping Group B ahead of Brazil, North Korea and New Zealand, before beating Syria 3-1 in the Round of 16. However, they lost out 1-4 to Germany in the quarter-final.
2011 saw a similar story as England once again won their group, beating Uruguay and Rwanda before being held by Canada with their goalkeeper Quillan Roberts scoring from his own half. The Round of 16 saw England triumph over Argentina on penalty-shootouts, but they again succumbed to Germany in the quarter-finals, losing 3-2, despite the presence of stars like Raheem Sterling.
2015 was far from a memorable tournament as England crashed out in the group stage after losing to Brazil and drawing against Guinea and South Korea to finish third in Group B.
ROAD TO U-17 WORLD CUP
Steve Cooper and co. clinched a spot in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India following a second-placed finish in the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship. Placed in Group D, England topped the group, having won all their three games.
In the quarter-finals, the Young Lions faced Republic of Ireland which saw Manchester City's Jadon Sancho score an early winning goal. Cooper's young guns then battled it out against Turkey whom they successfully defeated 2-1.
However, in the finale of the tournament, England fell prey to Spain. After the scoreline remained 1-1 after ninety minutes, the game headed on to penalties which saw the Young Lions lose as Spain netted four penalties in comparison to one of England's.
Despite losing the championship title, England qualified for the world cup owing to a second spot finish. The Young Lions progressed to the mega event, accompanied by Spain, France, Germany and Turkey from Europe.
It is worth noting that England U17s won 11 straight games throughout UEFA U-17 European Championship qualifying and the main tournament and the final where the normal time finished 2-2.
TEAM COACH AND HIS IDEOLOGY
Steve Cooper is the head coach of the The Three Lions' squad. In 2008, Cooper was appointed as the Head of Youth Development at Wrexham FC before becoming Academy manager of Liverpool in 2011. In 2014 he was named England Under-16 manager, and then became the Under-17 manager in 2015, taking over from Neil Dewsnip. Former Liverpool midfielder and first team coach Mike Marsh is his assistant.
England resort to the typical 4-3-3 shape on the field, comprising with three central midfielders, two wingers, and a striker. The formation has often benefitted the English side in terms of goals as the team netted 33 goals in their 12 European Championship 2017 qualifying and finals games, whilst conceding just eight.
The English side, known for its attacking prowess, includes a handful of deadly playmakers and midfielders who bring flair and technique to the squad. To start with, the deadly duo of Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Manchester City’s Jadon Sancho have been immense for Steve Cooper's team - the pair has scored 23 goals in 31 caps between them which makes them a big threat to the opposition's defensive forces. Apart from the two medios, George McEachran’s command of the midfield is remarkable, too. He allows the strikeforce to play freely and fluidly, leading to positive outcomes always, whilst 16-year-old Jonathan Panzo, former captain of England Under-16s, is pivotal in the back-line of the English side.