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The FA

Cooper's World Cup fever

England U17s boss looking forward to taking his Young Lions to India in October

Thursday 13 Jul 2017

England Under-17s boss Steve Cooper only spent a few days in India for the World Cup draw, but is already excited for October’s extravaganza.

The Young Lions sealed their spot at the bi-annual competition after reaching the U17 Euro Final earlier this summer.

And after attending last week’s draw in Mumbai, which saw England placed in a group with Mexico, Chile and Iraq, Cooper believes it’s going to be an exciting time for those involved.

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

“I managed to get a sample of what the World Cup experience is going to be like in India and I have to say, the main impression I got is that there’s a real big interest in it across the country,” he explained.

“There’s a real enthusiasm to do a good job of hosting it and it’s a big deal that it’s the first FIFA event to be held in India, which is a massive country.

“They’re really proud to be hosting the tournament and I’m sure they’re going to do a good job.

“It’s a tough group, but it’s an as-expected group really because if you look at all the groups, I don’t think there’s an absolute, really strong group.

“There’s never a weak group in a World Cup, but if you look at all of the groups, they’re pretty even and you’ve got to be a good team to get to the World Cup Finals.

“Ourselves and Chile both came runners-up in our qualification process and Iraq and Mexico won their qualification process, so it’s a really tough group.

“It’s going to be a great football experience for the players and the staff so we’re looking forward to it.”

Cooper’s squad will play all three of their initial group games at Kolkata’s 66,000 capacity Vivekanada Yuba Stadium, where the final will also be staged on 28 October.

And he saw first-hand on a subsequent trip to the region just how much passion there is, in what is said to be India’s main football city, at the prospect of hosting his team.

“We’ll be based in Kolkata, where it was ramped up even more and they’re really pleased that England are going to be based there,” he revealed.

“They’re certain the games will be sold-out, everybody that we spoke to said that Kolkata is a real football city and there will be a real buzz about it.

“We really felt that going there, just to have a look around. There’s a real excitement about us playing there and the World Cup in general.”

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The U17s were the first of England’s development teams in action this summer, when they travelled to Croatia in May for the Euro Finals.

After securing their qualification for the World Cup by reaching the semi-final, the Young Lions were seconds away from winning the Euro title when a last-minute goal from Spain levelled the final at 1-1 before going they won on penalties.

But with the U20s subsequently going on to win their World Cup and the Toulon Tournament in June, before the U21s reached the last four of their Euro Finals in Poland and the U19s' ongoing success at their Euros in Georgia, Cooper hopes his team will be able to round off a memorable year.

“A World Cup at any time is a one-off opportunity for a lot of coaches and players, but on the back of the summer that we’ve had and where we want the players and teams to be long-term, it provides good inspiration and motivation,” said the former Liverpool academy coach.

“The World Cup format at development levels are generally quite similar, so we have loads of learnings from the one in Chile [U17 World Cup 2015] when I was assistant coach and also from the recent U20 World Cup.

“So there will be a lot of collaboration with what went on there from all of the departments, with the coaches speaking to each other and the medical and sport sciences teams communicating too.

“Teams can’t wait to get back together and get going again, so we’ll be meeting up again in August and we're looking forward to the preparations.

“The work that we’re doing isn’t for the short term, it’s with the long-term aim in mind.

“For sure, we’ll enjoy good moments when they come along, but we’re working with one eye on the future and what’s to come at senior level with Gareth.”

By Nicholas Veevers