England’s youth football comes of age

The youth team of The Three Lions entered its maiden semifinal by registering a thumping 4-1 win over USA and will face Brazil at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday, in its quest for further glory.

"For an England team to qualify for the semifinal for the first time is something that we are really proud of," England U-17 head-coach Steve Cooper said ahead of his team's semifinal clash against Brazil on Wednesday.   -  PTI

It has been an extraordinary year for England in youth football. After winning the U-20 World Cup in June, England clinched the European U-19 Championship in July. It finished runner-up in the European U-17 Championship and secured the third place in the European U-21 Championship.

In India, it is already enjoying its best ever run at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The youth team of The Three Lions entered its maiden semifinal by registering a thumping 4-1 win over USA and will face Brazil at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday, in its quest for further glory.

Read: FIFA U-17 WC: A battle of the equals

Steve Cooper, who has been the England U-17 coach since 2015, is glad the efforts are being recognised. "For an England team to qualify for the semifinal for the first time is something that we are really proud of. It means that the development academy is on the up (rise).

"We have always talked about coming up with good results, so this is something that is a good example of the good work that is going on back in England. All the clubs, all the academies, in terms of what we are trying to do, in terms of what the FA has and in terms of the players as well, it’s going in the right direction,” England’s U-17 coach Steve Cooper said.

According to the coach, the U-17 World Cup is just the beginning of the journey for the England players and the focus is on the long-term goals.

“These tournaments are brilliant for throwing up different experiences, different opportunities for the players to thrive, to sample. Everything that comes our way, even the venue change, we have to look forward to it. There is no disadvantage. We really are just looking forward to playing the game.

“Of course, the journey hasn’t finished. We are very much looking forward to tomorrow. So I think that needs to be recognised and worked upon.

"In terms of the players going to the full duration of a World Cup and surviving a better part of five weeks away, that will serve well for the long term. So when we play the senior World Cup, we will hopefully have good experiences to look back on,” he explained.

Even Brazil coach Carlos Amadeu admitted that England currently has got the best youth set up in the world. “Not only the U-17 team, all the youth teams from England in the last three years have had great results. They are developing great players. They probably have one of the best youth squads in the world,” Carlos Amadeu said.

Cooper said the achievements of other English youth teams acted as inspiration for the U-17 team to perform better. “The wins, they are definitely a motivation. What English teams did in the summer, including what we did as well. We have reached a couple of European finals and we played against Spain in the U-17.

"We dominated throughout the tournament. You come to a World Cup, there is more pressure than what you are used to. Now there is more pressure to do well. We are expected to do well,” he said.

About the upcoming clash against Brazil, he said: “We just want to play our game. I think the four teams left in the tournament, there is no massive advantage to any team in any part of the game. Whether it is tactical, physical or anything, there is nothing to separate the teams.

“I don’t think we can focus on any part of the opposition. We will just have to be prepared for how we can win the game and stop Brazil from playing their way. We really believe in this group of players and what they can do in any given game. We want to go into any game with the same intention, think about ourselves analyse our strengths and weaknesses than the opposition. Ultimately, just stick to the plan and deliver when the time comes.”

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