England maintained their all-win record in the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a thumping 4-0 win over Iraq in Kolkata on Saturday. Two goals from Daniel Loader and a goal each from Angel Gomes and Emile Smith Rowe sealed a convincing victory for the Young Lions.
Gaffer Steve Cooper made as many as nine changes in England's starting XI on the day. Apart from Jadon Sancho and defender Joel Latibeaudierre, the entire starting XI from the previous match was changed. Manchester United starlet Angel Gomes got his first start of the tournament and also wore the captain's armband.
Qahtan Al-Rubaye too made two changes in Iraq's winning combination. Star striker Mohammed Dawood was benched as he was carrying a yellow card into this match and another one would have kept him out of the round of 16 match.
The Young Lions took charge of the game right from the ball go. They created more chances and were looking the more positive side in their approach. Gomes drew first blood in the 10th minute by converting a curling cross from Nya Kirby from the right flank.
Kirby entered the box and sent a low pass inside the box which striker Daniel Loader missed from a handshaking distance but Gomes was in position and calmly found the back of the net to hand England an early lead.
In the 23rd minute England got a golden opportunity to double their lead. Emile Smith Rowe was brought down inside the penalty box by Iraq's Mohammed Albaqer. Jadon Sancho stepped up to take the penalty but missed as Iraq custodian Ali Ibadi second guessed his spot kick perfectly and jumped on his right to stop the ball.
Iraq thereafter changed their tactics and went on to play more attacking football. Striker Ali Kareem came close to score on more than one occasion but failed. The Asian side were missing the flair of prolific goalscorer Mohammed Dawood upfront.
England star Jadon Sancho was completely off-colour in the first half and was seen switching position with Angel Gomes several times. It was a rare off-day for the Borussia Dortmund winger.
Coach Qahtan made two changes in the second half as he finally realized the need for urgency and unleashed Dawood, who replaced an underperforming Ali Kareem. Muntadher Mohammed was the other change as he replaced Mohammed Ali.
Iraq went all out right from the beginning of second half and were looking desperate for a equaliser. At the 56th minute, somewhat against the run of play, Smith Rowe doubled England’s lead. The winger played a one-two with Angel Gomes at the edge of the box and found the back of the net comfortably.
It took them just two minutes to further increase their lead when Daniel Loader entered the penalty box after a solo run down the pitch and scored. The fate of the match was sealed with the third goal.
Loader doubled his personal tally and scored the fourth goal for the Young Lions at the 69th minute from Steven Sessengon’s assist. The Lion cubs of Mesopotamia completely surrendered in front of the English youngsters. Even Dawood, Iraq’s star player, failed to make a mark.
England will now face Japan in the round of 16 on Tuesday at the same venue.