England Under-17s are world champions thanks to an inspired second-half performance that saw them overturn a two-goal deficit with five unanswered goals against a talented Spain team.
Spain were 2-0 ahead after half an hour but England, a side packed with attacking talent, recovered to win 5-2 thanks in large part to Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi. Spain could not handle the duo.
Rhian Brewster pulled one back just before the break after Sergio Gómez had netted twice for Spain, and from then on there was no turning back for Steve Cooper’s side. They came out after the interval and dominated the game: Morgan Gibbs-White drew England level before Foden took hold of the game, scoring either side of Marc Guehi’s fourth.
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A lapse in concentration at the back allowed the Barcelona forward Gómez to give Spain the lead in the 10th minute. Juan Miranda’s looping cross into the box was weakly headed at goal by César Gelabert and Gómez was waiting unmarked to flick the ball home, Steven Sessegnon playing him onside.
If lifting the trophy seemed a long way off for England, their spirits were not dampened. Indeed they were the more consistently threatening thanks to fine combination play from Gibbs-White and Foden, and Hudson-Odoi tormenting the Spanish full-back Jaume.
The confidence of Spain grew thanks to their opening goal and they did their best to use England’s high pressing and fast attacking against them. It eventually earned them a second goal on the half hour mark, Gómez again finding space in the area to finish off the move. This time the forward volleyed the ball with his left foot across Curtis Anderson from 15 yards and into the top corner, leaving England looking demoralised.
Steve Cooper’s side most dangerous play came down the wings and they deservedly found a way back into the game just before the break when Sessegnon crossed from the right after earning himself a few inches of space. He landed the ball on Brewster’s head, the Liverpool forward powering the ball beyond Álvaro Fernández to score his eighth goal of the tournament. Scoring just before the break gave England a momentum they would not relinquish.
There was no stopping England in the second half, as they dominated possession, Foden taking hold of the game and Hudson-Odoi tiring out the Spanish defence. The shift in dynamic led to England drawing level just before the hour mark. This time the move was started by a Foden pass to Sessegnon, who burst beyond the defence before sending the ball calmly across the six-yard box for Gibbs-White to tap into an empty net.
Foden was instrumental, making things happen for England throughout and eventually getting his personal reward by giving his team the lead with 20 minutes to play. The skilful Hudson-Odoi burst away from Moha Moukhliss down the left flank and crossed to the back post, where the onrushing Foden kept his cool to ensure the bobbling ball ended up in the net. The celebrations behind the goals attested to both England’s dominance and the resilience within the side: they looked determined to not let Spain back into the game.
Spain were unable to affect the tempo and England continued to look like scoring with each attack, their fourth goal arriving in the 84th minute. Hudson-Odoi was rewarded with a free-kick after the tired Jaume rugby tackled him to the ground. The Chelsea winger made Spain pay, sending the resulting free-kick into the box for the ball to eventually be turned in by Guehi. The centre-back steered home from inside the six-yard box after a knock-down by his captain, Joel Latibeaudiere.
There was no doubt as to the result once the fourth had gone in, but it was fitting that the scoring was completed by Foden combining with Hudson-Odoi, England’s two outstanding players. The winger had spent most of the game outwitting defenders on the flanks and using his pace to get to the byline, but with two minutes to go he showed another side of his game, picking out Foden in space. The City midfielder calmly controlled the ball and got away from the defence before hitting a shot through Fernández. Cue scenes of celebration rarely seen by English players.