Kolkata, Oct 29 (IANS) England were 2-0 in the dumps in the first half of the FIFA U-17 World Cup final against Spain but there was no consternation in their ranks, coach Steve Cooper said after their 5-2 win on Saturday.
England lifted their maiden World Cup in front of a 66,684 sellout crowd at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here.
After Sergio Gomez’s brace had put the European champions in front (10th, 31st), Rhian Brewster (44th), Morgan Gibbs-White (58th) and Marc Guehi (84th) scored one apiece while Phil Foden — later adjudged the Golden Ball winner for his superb display — struck a brace (69th and 88th minutes) to pull off an amazing comeback.
“It’s easy to say this now. I really did not think there was real panic. We should have scored in the first minute, was it? We the ones who took the initiative… we pressed a lot higher and played forward a lot more,” Cooper, with the trophy kept in front of him, told reporters.
“We were even in control of the game being 2-0 down. We stuck to our plan. Halftime talk was positive and we played good football without that cutting edge,” Cooper said.
“To be 2-0 down in a World Cup (final) and in my opinion against the run of play… To comeback and win 5-2 tells you everything about the character of English players,” he said.
Cooper reserved special praise for India as hosts and especially Kolkata, where England played six of their seven World Cup matches.
“I have to say thank you to India and Kolkata deserves special mention. The six out of seven games we have played out here… it’s been an amazing experience. It’s easy to say that sitting out here. But honestly, whatever happened today, we will go back much better professionals and better England players and staff. I want to go on record and say India has hosted a top tournament in so many ways,” Cooper said.
Asked if England, who have stuck to possession-based football throughout the tournament much like Spain’s fabled ‘tiki taka’, beat the La Rojita in their own game, Cooper said: “We beat Spain playing our own game. We thought this is how we want to play. England teams will typify that. So if it’s similar to the Spanish game, it’s great that they have been successful but this is us doing our thing our way.”
Cooper did not want to single out Foden for praise, saying he had 21 stories to tell about the 21 players in the England squad as to what went behind winning the World Cup.
“Foden got the Golden Ball but each of the 21 members have got a gold medal around their neck. I am not the one to talk about individuals. Joel (Latibeaudiere) and Angel (Gomes), the non-playing captain picked up the trophy together without anyone telling them. This typifies the togetherness in our team. I can give you 21 stories about the 21 players why we won the World Cup.”
The feeling, Cooper said, would sink in on Sunday morning once they have realised what they have done.
“The feeling is… I am speechless. The feeling is little bit surreal. I think it might feel a little better tomorrow once we realise what we have done. The players were fantastic all throughout the tournament, the staff. In my opinion, we are worthy winners of the tournament… the way we played, the goals we scored, ones we conceded. The football that we played… individual talent, team identity and the character and personality we showed.”