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The FA

Indian summer

Young Lions boss Steve Cooper happy with his squad for the U17 World Cup in India

Wednesday 27 Sep 2017

Steve Cooper believes his Young Lions will only benefit from the next step in their fledgling international careers, as they head to the U17 World Cup.

The 21-strong squad will fly to India on Thursday morning to begin their preparations for what will be another step up in terms of their experiences with England.

FIFA U17 World Cup India 2017
  • 6-28 October 2017
  • Sunday 8 October: England v Chile
  • Wednesday 11 October: Mexico v England
  • Saturday 14 October: England v Iraq
  • Live on Eurosport

For many of them, that previous step came last season as they reached the final of the U17 European Championship, where they suffered the heartbreak of conceding a last-minute equaliser and then a penalty shootout defeat.

The performances on that trip to Croatia, their first competitive international tournament, gave Cooper plenty of confidence in his players and their chances to now develop further on a world stage.

“I’m really happy with the squad we’ve selected,” he revealed.

“It’s a core group of players that we’ve had on the international scene for a while now.

“That’s good, because we’re trying to work in a way that we flag players who can stay on the international pathway for as long as possible.

“Of course, we also want players who can perform today and that’s what the World Cup will be about, but we want to build for the long-term as well so the fact that most of these lads have been with us for four years now is good.

“But there’s a long way to go and the U17 World Cup isn’t the end, but it’s an important milestone of the international journey.”

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The squad will start their preparations for the World Cup with a training camp in Mumbai and a warm-up game with fellow finalists New Zealand before heading to their base in Kolkata.

Once there, they will face group opposition from Chile, Mexico and Iraq before hopefully progressing to the knock-out stages.

And Cooper is happy with his squad as he welcomes back livewire forward Jadon Sancho, following his deadline-week move from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund and also a new face in the shape of Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher.

“Conor is a new cap and we’re delighted to have him involved,” he explained.

“He’s a player that we’ve looked at closely over the last 12 months and he deserves his opportunity.

“So I’m really happy with the squad we’ve got and it will be one that we’ll be happy to work with again I’m sure.”

The World Cup preparations began for Cooper and his players last month, when they got together for a training camp at St. George’s Park as well as facing two friendly games with Brazil and South Africa.

And whilst they were held to a 0-0 draw by Brazil in Shrewsbury and then lost 2-1 to South Africa at Leek Town, Cooper knows they were useful exercises for his charges.

“It’s always good to play teams from outside of Europe, but especially when you’re preparing for a World Cup,” he explained.

“Brazil on any stage will be a good experience and they were a strong Brazilian group which we played, and South Africa was also a good preparation game.

“African teams often do well at FIFA development competitions in particular, so if we have any ambitions of progressing through the tournament, which we do, I have no doubt we’ll come up against an African team along the way.

“It also gave us a chance to try a few things out and it’s all part of the preparation process.”

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels