Mumbai: It's the group that appears to throw intriguing clashes. The one, which promises to produce exciting, end-to-end football right from referee's first whistle of the match. At the forthcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, Group F comprising England, Chile, Mexico, and Iraq stands out from the rest and arguably deserves the 'Group of Death' tag going into the tournament.
"Brilliant! That's what we wanted. We want tough competition, it's the World Cup. I think all the groups are difficult. We could've been drawn in any of the six groups. We would've had tougher opponents. I know we will be a tough competition for all the teams out there," England coach Steve Cooper told reporters after his side's warm-up match against New Zealand in Mumbai on Sunday.
England, the European representative in the group, finished runners-up at the UEFA European U-17 Championship just months ago. The Young Lions missed out on the coveted title after cruelly losing to Spain on penalties. They conceded an injury-time goal, and in the shootout, Spain triumphed.
Meanwhile, CONCACAF champions Mexico are waiting in the wings. With a well-established pedigree in the tournament, featuring in 12 of the 16 editions of the U-17 World Cup, Mexico come into the competition as a two-time champion (2005 and 2011).
The third team in the fray, Chile finished second in their South American U-17 Championships, while Asian champions Iraq would be eager to make the most of their chances. One doesn't need a pundit to notice how competitive the group is.
"I believe even for the hosts, India, I know how hard they have been working, I don't generally feel that there will be easy games against any opposition. If we (England) are lucky enough and if the team progresses to the next round, it's only going to get tougher. We played a lot of tough games in the European competition and that's exactly what we want for the players," Cooper added after his side edged past the Kiwis in a practice match at the Mumbai Football Arena.
New Zealand took England by surprise to take the lead but were outplayed in the latter stages of the first half as they let the Young Lions dominate the possession and score the equaliser before the half-time break.
Notably, Cooper's men tweaked the formation in the second half and gave Jadon Sancho and Angel Gomes the much-needed minutes on the pitch. However, the All Whites capitalised on England's errors at the back to restore their lead. But, it was Liverpool U-18 starlet Rhian Brewster who netted twice quite late into the game to hand the Euro U-17 finalists a narrow 3-2 win.
"We showed a lot of character and made a few changes that affected the rhythm of the game. Our boys tried many things in the second half, playing different formations and linking up. It's difficult as a sub to come on, make a difference and to get into the rhythm of the game. But our substitutions had a vital impact,” Cooper concluded.
The football-mad city of Kolkata will host the proverbial ‘Group of Death’ of the much-anticipated tournament, starting from 8 October.
Updated Date: Oct 02, 2017 12:18 PM