After three weeks of intense competition, the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 is ready to be played at Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. It will be an all-European affair with England and Spain, out of 24 teams, are still living the dream to wear the junior crown. Whereas, their senior teams winning the Cup only once (England in 1966 and Spain in 2010), the juniors will be looking for their maiden U-17 title.
Spain and England have met thrice in the final of a FIFA event and all 3 times in the UEFA U-17 European Championship. Spain were triumphant in 2007, before England took their revenge in 2010. The Spaniards once more emerged victorious in May 2017 after they beat England in the penalties.
Spain’s hero on that ‘May’ day was Nacho Diaz who has not featured in the starting XI in India. He has registered only two substitute appearances and no goals thus far. “It is quite clear that we want to have the ball. However the job is not only to have possession but to build you attacks and create chances,” said Spanish coach Santi Denia.
For the England team, both Rhian Brewster and Joel Latibeaudiere missed their kicks in the penalty shootout in the UEFA final. But in this tournament, Brewster is a star having scored back-to-back hat-tricks against USA and Brazil, while captain Latibeaudiere has barely put a foot wrong at centre-half. “We want to play with purpose, dominate possession, play forward and get the ball back as quick as we can. That’s always our plan, we will never change our style or way,” said English coach Steve Cooper.
As an appetizer to the grand finale, the third-place match against the losing semi-finalists Brazil and Mali also promises to be a startling affair. Two of the most attacking teams of the tournament have a chance to overcome the disappointment of the semi-finals. With the Kolkata crowd rooting for Brazil, the South Americans have a slight edge over their African rivals.
India has responded overwhelmingly to this first-ever FIFA tournament in the country. Set to have a record attendance and also highest number of goals in the tournament, the country knew that there is only one ‘first time’ and so did not leave any stone unturned to make it successful. “Like any other World Cup, this tournament has had its challenges, but the amount of goodwill, the amount of energy, and the amount of importance that the different stakeholders have applied to this World Cup has been fantastic. That has been what has allowed us to deliver the event so far,” declared Javier Ceppi, Director of the India 2017 LOC.
The final is hosted in Kolkata, the football capital of India. With already 66,613 attendance in the quarter final between Brazil and Germany and 63,881 supporters watching Brazil and England semifinal, the city is expected to go crazy to witness one of the most important matches in the country. “It’s been a fantastic tournament until now, with an overwhelming response of everybody involved. First and foremost, the fans have filled the stadiums in all the matches, showing fair play and respect, cheering on all the teams, and really loving the football they have seen,” Jaime Yarza, Head of FIFA Tournaments proudly announced.
But the final words came from the horse’s mouth. FIFA president Gianni Infantino, just after landing in Kolkata declared, “India is a football country now. Thank you very much all the Indians. That’s most important. It’s a great pleasure to here.”