Determined not to get carried away with their summer of success, England U-17 coach Steve Cooper said his team’s aim is to work on a long-term plan of winning the World Cup and European Championship at senior level.
England’s 5-2 win over Spain in the Fifa U-17 World Cup final in Kolkata on Saturday capped the Youth teams’ remarkable year. They had won the U-20 World Cup in South Korea earlier this year while their U-19 side had won the European championships.
“This is the development team building for future. Nobody is going to get carried away. The expectations will obviously rise with we being the winners of two World Cups but we have a long term plan, will stick to our plan and always be positive.
“The long term goal is winning the World Cup and Euro at senior level,” said Cooper at the post match conference.
England are looking for their first World Cup at senior level since 1966.
“This trophy is a dedication to the good work done in England, the academies, the development work done at the FA. These players have been in the journey for 3-4 years now. They have been on the path where a lot of work has gone into from different coaches. For me it’s a recognition of the English football, where we wanted to go. That we are the holders now of the U-17 and U-20 World Cups is pretty special,” he said.
In their bid to win the maiden U-17 title, England had kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 demolition of Chile before thrashing the likes of USA and Brazil in quarters and semifinals, pumping in 23 goals in seven matches.
Cooper said the English team showed it was technically a notch ahead of others.
“The results have been amazing, the way we have played, the identity, the belief we showed is second to none. It’s showing the way where we want to go. Our England teams play like that – not one long ball, it’s pass, pass and pass.
“We have a plan that can be used in any game. We showed we can do it at the very best and against the very best. Playing as a team and obviously good individual stuff up the pitch as well,” Cooper said.
Trailing by two goals half an hour into the game, England did not panic. While Rhian Brewster scored before the break, Phil Foden’s brace and a goal each from Morgan Gibbs-White, Marc Guehi not only outclassed Spain but also avenged their Euro final defeat earlier this year in Croatia.
“We beat Spain playing our game. This is how we want to play, England team will typify that. This is doing our thing our way, doing at the biggest stage is so rewarding.
“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 were the ones who took the initiative...we pressed a lot higher and played forward a lot more,” said the coach.
“We were even in control of the game being 0-2 down. We stuck to our plan. Halftime talk was positive and we played good football without that cutting edge,” he added.
Cooper said their “surreal performance” spoke volumes about their character.
“The feeling is I’m speechless, a little bit surreal. Might feel a bit better tomorrow once I realise what we have done. We are worthy winners of the tournament, the football that we played, the goals we scored, individual talent, team identity, character and personality.
“0-2 down against the run of play and come back winning 5-3 tells everything about the character of English players.”
Insisting it was a team effort, Cooper refused to single out the winners of the Golden Boot and Golden Ball – Brewster and Foden.
“I can give you 21 stories about 21 players why we won the World Cup,” he said.
Regular captain Angel Gomes started from the bench and was substituted in the 90+ minutes but Cooper said: “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.
“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.”
He also praised Spain and their coach Santiago Denia.
“I have enormous respect for Santiago. He has an amazing team and players. They would be disappointed but when dust settles they should be proud really proud of their work.”
With their success at the U-17 World Cup, Cooper hoped that they have left a legacy in Indian football.
“Personally I hope a legacy has been left in Indian football. I saw when I came out for draw in July, there was massive interest and passion in the country. It can only be good, supported by investment, coach education. If we have been able to inspire the kids by coming out here, and coaches, supporters we will be satisfied with that. I’m sure some kids in the stadium will start kicking the ball much better.”
Cooper and his team lifted the trophy in front of a sellout crowd of 66684.
“I want to go on record and say thank you India for hosting a real top, top tournament in so many ways. I’ve to say thank you to India.
The six out of seven games we have played out here [Kolkata], 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,” he said.