By Samindra Kunti in Kolkata
October 19 – England progressed to the last eight of the U-17 World Cup in India following a penalty shoot-out win against Japan. Spain knocked out favorites France in the round of 16 with Brazil, Germany and Mali all qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Steve Cooper’s England team labored hard against Japan to ensure its spot among the final eight. The Young Lions enjoyed the possession, but struggled to breached the Japanese defense and lost the initiative midway through the second half.
England lacked their fluidity from the group stages. Striker Rhian Brewster hit the woodwork from a tight angle on 27 minutes. Nya Kirby’s shot from close range was blocked by Yuki Kobayashi six minutes from time. On the wing Phil Foden was England’s most lively player.
After a goalless 90 minutes, penalties had to decide a winner and Hinata Kida missed from the spot to give England a 5-3 victory. With the penalty barrier out of the way, England will play the USA in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
The Americans impressed in the second round thrashing Paraguay 4-0 courtesy of a Tim Weah hat-trick. While the young Weah was representing the US, his legendary footballing father George, was running for the presidency of Liberia and will face his own knockout tie in an election run-off with Joseph Boakai in November.
Elsewhere, Spain eliminated France, who had emerged as early favorites in the group stages. The two European giants were on an even keel, but Spain strategised better in the second half and Abdel Ruiz’s last minute penalty conversion was enough to send the French home. In the quarter-finals Spain will meet Iran, Asia’s last representative at the tournament. The Iranians overcame a disappointing Mexico 2-1 in Goa.
Both Brazil and Germany cruised past their opponents to set up a mouth-watering encounter in Kolkata. Germany crushed Colombia 4-0 and Brazil made light work of Honduras 3-0. The last quarter-final will be an all-African one, with Ghana and Mali facing off on Saturday in Guwahati. The Black Starlets eliminated World Cup debutants Niger 2-0 with ease and Mali annihilated Asian champions Iraq 5-1.
The U-17 World Cup will culminate with the final in Kolkata on October 28. Defending champions Nigeria didn’t qualify for the tournament.
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