FIFA U-17 WC: England drubs Iraq to march into pre-quarters

A second-string England drubbed a full-strength Iraq 4-0 in the concluding group match at Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday to ensure that it emerged the Group F topper with full quota of points in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

Action during a FIFA U-17 World Cup match between England and Iraq in Kolkata on Saturday.   -  PTI

A second-string England drubbed a full-strength Iraq 4-0 in the concluding group match at Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday to ensure that it emerged the Group F topper with full quota of points in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

England now takes on Group E runner-up Japan in the pre-quarterfinal match to be played at the same venue on Tuesday. Japan finished its league engagements of group E with a 1-1 draw against New Caledonia earlier at the same venue.

England brought in eight changes to the side that made the last outing against Mexico. But the decision of English coach Steve Cooper to rotate his side ahead of the knock-outs did hardly alter the merit of his team’s performance.

The English ‘bench’ was equally as potent as the first team in Cooper’s roster, which spoke a lot about the comprehensiveness of the youth development initiative of the Premier League clubs.

MATCH CENTRE

England began the scoring in the 11th minute when its feisty play-maker Angel Gomes found the net reaching a cross from the right winger Nya Kirby. The Manchester United youth team player judged the assist from the Crystal Palace midfielder with a timely run and connected it after the Reading FC forward Daniel Loader looked a trifle late in reaching it. The first half created more opportunities for the English but the second goal remained elusive.

Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund wing-half who is counted as the most talented names in the English squad, failed to dazzle. While he was thoroughly policed by the Iraqi defence, the responsibility of taking the only penalty of the match also did not meet the expected treatment. Sancho’s 25th minute attempt from the spot was saved by the Iraqi goalkeeper Ali Ibadi, who went on to make a few more spectacular saves later in the match to ensure that Iraq did not lose by a bigger margin.

READ: FIFA U-17 WC: Mexico into playoffs with draw

England’s effective team game came good after the break when it scored three more goals to complete Iraq’s rout. Emile Smith Rowe doubled the lead in the 57th minute before Loader made amends to his earlier laxity by scoring two in the 59th and 71st minutes. Iraq introduced its super striker Mohammed Dawood in the 48th minute but he was neutralised by an alert English defence.

The only thing Dawood could manage was a yellow card (his second in the tournament) for a foul on English defender Marc Guehi, which ruled him out of the pre-quarterfinals. Iraq, which took the Group F runner-up spot with four points, will now play Group B runner-up Mali in Goa on Tuesday.