England Under-17s became world champions in ecstatic fashion as Phil Foden’s brace and Rhian Brewster’s eighth goal of the tournament powered the Young Lions to a 5-2 World Cup final win over Spain.
It was a sensational turn-around for Steve Cooper’s side after slipping 2-0 behind in little more than half an hour but they showed endless reserves of energy, enthusiasm and skill as they matched England’s World Cup-winning under-20s in style and avenged defeat to the same opponents in the final of the European Championship.
England have been the dominant force in age-group football in 2017, asserting themselves in a way their senior counterparts can only dream of, and in Manchester City playmaker Foden and Liverpool forward Brewster they have two of the nation’s most prized talents.
Brewster’s header gave England hope at 2-1 down, Morgan Gibbs-White grabbed the equaliser and from there it was one-way traffic, Foden producing a pair of smart finishes and Marc Guehi on target from close range.
Though they did not appear on the scoresheet at Kolkata’s sold-out Salt Lake Stadium, huge credit must also go to the irrepressible Chelsea prospect Callum Hudson-Odoi and Steven Sessegnon, whose crossing was essential to the comeback.
The game began at a breathless pace, Brewster and Gibbs-White combining for the first chance after just 47 seconds and Spain went ahead inside 10 minutes after Sergio Gomez touched touched home form close range.
England immediately appealed for offside but Sessegnon was playing the striker on in the full-back position.
Spain were desperately close to making it 2-0 after Jonathan Panzo’s forward foray left his side exposed on the counter. Moha raced into space but, having established an almost unmissable position, took a heavy touch that Curtis Anderson pounced on.
There was no let off for England next time, Ruiz twisting and turning to feed Cesar, who duly picked out Gomez.
The forward wrapped his left boot around the ball and hooked a wonderful effort into the far corner.
It looked bleak for the Young Lions but, once Hudson-Odoi struck the post with a wonderful solo effort, they hit back just before the break.
Brewster was the inevitable scorer, with an authoritative downward header, but Sessegnon was equally responsible having provided an irresistible cross.
England’s gutsy chase for an equaliser bore fruit in the 58th minute, Foden’s disguised pass locating Sessegnon’s overlap.
His cross was perfect again, as was Gibbs-White’s timing as he arrived to clip home from six yards.
The momentum was with England – and preserved less than a minute as Anderson made an instinctive one-handed save from Juan Miranda’s header.
England took the lead for the first time in the 69 minute, Hudson-Odoi sliding the ball into Foden’s path at the far post, where he never looked likely to miss.
They might have settled for survival now, particularly after Sessegnon blocked Miranda’s header on the line, but instead went for the killer blow.
With five minutes left they though they had landed it, Guehi poking over the line after Panzo kept the ball alive, but there was a fifth still to come.
It was fitting that it fell for Foden, Golden Ball winner as player of the tournament, and he accepted it with aplomb, taking a deft touch before rifling past Alvaro with power and precision.