Rhian Brewster screamed with joy. A sight familiar by now to those who have had a taste of the youngster’s show. For the second successive game, the Liverpool forward had put the opposition’s challenge to rest. Successive hat-tricks in the knockout stage, an achievement unheard of. Rhian Brewster has definitely arrived.
Brewster’s strikes against Brazil on Wednesday, though, were a representation of only a few things that he can do. His sense of positioning and adeptness at poaching were key to his goals. But there’s a lot more to Brewster and that is what is worrying for defenders. There’s no one way to stop him.
Add his calm demeanour to that and you have a striker who’s mature beyond his years. No wonder then that Brewster is already a part of the Liverpool U-23 squad. Having chosen the Reds over Chelsea because he did not see a way into the first team with his former employers, the London-born striker is already creating waves.
His composure came in handy on Wednesday at a packed Salt Lake Stadium. As the second half passed, one could not help but notice that the partisan crowd had been left to brood. The local favourite Brazil were trailing and a sense of foreboding swept over the stands. Brewster could take credit for that.
His goals, like they usually do, arrived in the first half. Five of his seven strikes in this World Cup have been claimed in the opening period; at the under-17 Euros earlier this year, Brewster’s all three goals were first-half goals too.
On Wednesday, the first blow by England saw the lanky forward time his run perfectly to prod Callum Hudson-Odoi's angled cross. Although his shot found the ‘keeper, Brewster was quick to finish the rebound.
The second was another poacher’s finish as Brewster demonstrated his comfort among opposition bodies in the six-yard box. The potentially tricky situation was navigated with ease. The forward controlled the ball with one leg and finished with the other.
For his final strike of the evening, Brewster once again landed in the right place at the right time to carry England into the final. All evening, he redefined the phrase ‘fox in the box’ for everyone.
But as the coach Steven Cooper discussed after the match, there’s more to the England starlet than his goals. “It’s about the effort he puts in. We want to win the ball quickly. We want to press. It starts with the number nine.” For an England side that seeks to dominate possession and play vertical football, the tactical awareness, athleticism and finishing of Brewster is a boon. He can hurt the opposition quickly, especially on the transitions.
Brewster’s gifts have been seen in full glory since the quarters; he has been involved in all of England’s seven goals since, propelling himself and his team to the top of the goalscoring charts.
Although the adulation is being showered upon him only now, there were signs throughout the group stage that Brewster could break out as one of this World Cup’s stars. The goal he set up for Jadon Sancho in the tournament opener against Chile demonstrated his guile in possession; his pace caught the goalie out later in the game leading to the custodian’s sending off for a professional foul.
In the Round of 16 match versus Japan, Brewster struck the post and scored from the spot in the shootout. In the process, he exorcised the ghost of the Euro final this summer when he failed to convert a spot-kick in England’s loss to Spain on penalties. After that miss, Steven Gerrard sought Brewster out and encouraged the forward to continue taking penalties.
He repeated the effort from the spot in the 4-1 demolition of the US in the quarters. That match once again confirmed the clinical mindset which underpins Brewster’s football. Jadon Sancho must have been the name on everyone’s lips before the campaign began but Brewster is firmly in the limelight now. Sancho has not been sorely missed by England.
Brewster may have another arrow in his quiver. Against Mexico in the group stage, he stepped up to slam a free-kick from about 20 yards. There was no run which preceded his top corner bullet. A couple of steps and wham! A shot so powerful that the Mexican ‘keeper was left flailing in the air.
Now, Brewster has a shot at redemption in the World Cup final against England’s conqueror at the Euros—Spain. But no matter how that ends, the Reds forward is not going to be easily forgotten. His stamp on the tournament is deep and firm. Brewster has already been on the bench for Liverpool at Anfield and if his exploits continue—the six-feet-tall striker scored on his U-23 debut in January—he could very well become the club’s first senior player to be born in the 21st century.
Manager Jurgen Klopp is certainly among his admirers. Speaking in April after putting him on the bench for the Premier League match against Crystal Palace, the German manager said, “Rhian made outstanding steps in the last few months because the Talent Group is training once a week here at Melwood with Pep Lijnders and I can see them. Physically stronger, wonderfully skilled boy, real striker, good finisher, fantastic work ethic and all that stuff… he was on the bench last week because we thought he deserved it and we could use him in the right moment.”
England has certainly found Brewster at the right moment. Now, the national side needs him to deliver one more time.
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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2017 15:53:05 IST