FATORDA: When will I be able to host thousands of football fans again? , is the question that will hover over Nehru stadium , Fatorda as USA and England play the last U-17 World Cup match in Goa on Saturday. Goa hosted Group C, a pre-quarter final and finish with the quarterfinal tie between England and USA today.
England is the powerhouse of league football while USA has seen football developing and interest in the sport is increasing since hosting the World Cup in 1994.
The U17 World Cup hosted for the first time by India witnessed USA open their campaign with a convincing victory against the host. A win was expected and after the seemingly easy opener, USA after a slight stutter appears to be back on a goal scoring track with their convincing 5-0 win over Paraguay.
England has had a different story. A story more headlined with the appearance and disappearance of their player Sancho. Sancho was their scoring machine but has had to leave back for his duties with his club in Germany.
England finished their Group scoring eleven goals and conceding two and had the same goal difference of nine along with Group C toppers Iran.
After the England and USA match Goa will have hosted nine countries in the U17 World Cup out of twenty four. USA finished fourth in the FIFA U-17 world cup in 1994 and England are yet to record their name.
England made their FIFA U-17 World Cup debut a decade ago, with India 2017 being the Young Lions’ fourth outing on the global stage at this age level.
They reached the quarterfinals on debut in 2007, when they were beaten by Germany.
At Mexico 2011, the Germans once again dispatched their English counterparts. Last time, at Chile 2015, England failed to reach the knockout stages.
England will take some confidence from the fact that they finally broke the penalty shootout jinx, with goalkeeper Curtis Anderson pulling off some fine saves when the pressure was intense against Japan.
In the absence of Sancho, England struggled to open up the Japanese defence and looked less penetrative.
Angel Gomes, who replaced Sancho in the pre-quarters against Japan, along with Callum-Hudson Odoi and Philip Foden, need to show more creativity in the midfield.
The US attacking trio of skipper Josh Sargent, Tim Weah and Ayo Akinola is expected to pose problems to the England defense. Weah will be high on confidence having scored a hat- trick in the 5-0 drubbing of Paraguay.
The Americans are quick when it comes to attack and the English back four, comprising Timothy Eyoma, Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo, will have to be on their toes.
England coach Steve Cooper said, “We have shown a lot of character to remain unbeaten so far, which shows our strength and quality.
“USA too has given good account of themselves to reach this stage and we are ready for them. Hopefully, we can do what we have done in the league stage, take the game to the opposition and we will not be underestimating anybody.”
His counterpart, John Hackworth said, “We are playing for the first time against an European team in the World Cup. We have played England in the past three years and tomorrow’s match will be exciting.
“Tomorrow, we are playing against a strong opponent who has been unbeaten in this tournament, but we are ready to face them and will play to our potential to beat them and progress.”