KOLKATA: England coach Steve Cooper lavished praise on semifinal opponents Brazil calling them “one of the best teams at this level” ahead of Wednesday’s FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 semifinal clash at Kolkata.
While England cruised past USA in the quarterfinal, with Liverpool FC striker Rhian Brewster scoring hat-trick in a 4-1 scoreline, Brazil came from behind to edge out Germany 2-1 thanks to second half goals from Weverson and Paulinho that did not truly reflect the Selecao’s dominance.
And despite the Young Lions scoring 15 goals in five games en route to the semifinals, seeing off Chile, Mexico, Iraq, Japan and USA with a 100% record, Cooper believes the pre summit clash could be his side’s toughest test yet.
“This Brazil team are the champions of the 2017 South American U-17 Championship. So they are definitely one of the best teams at this level,” Cooper said.
“I saw their quarterfinal against Germany and thought that they are a really good team. Individually they are skilled, and also play well as a group. It will be a tough match, but I believe that the key point for the coming match will be how to stop their aggressive offence,” he added.
Group F winners England are appearing in the semifinals for the first time having appeared in quarterfinal twice in 2007 and 2011.
“Of course we want to win the tournament, and I believe that we have a chance. However, we want to think one game at a time, so all of our focus right now is to win the next game,” the gaffer continued.
“The first thing is to win the next game, and then we will think about the final. It would be great if we could achieve history which would mean a lot to English youth development. But we want to win the trophy first, and then people can evaluate our success.” Cooper concluded.
If England can beat Brazil and eventually go all the way to crown champions then they would become the only second team in history to win FIFA U-17 World Cup and FIFA U-20 World Cup in the same year having won the U-20 World Cup in June at South Korea.
Interestingly, England’s opponents for tomorrow is the only side to win FIFA U-17 World Cup and FIFA U-20 World Cup in the same year as the Selecao clinched the both in 2003.