England suffered late agony to lose the UEFA U17 European Championship final to Spain in the cruellest of ways.
The Young Lions were on the cusp of becoming the first team to lift the trophy three times after leading 2-1 with seconds to spare in Varazdin.
However, that record went to Spain after substitute Nacho Diaz’s equaliser with the last touch of normal time set up a penalty shoot-out that went the way of the seven-time finalists.
- UEFA European Under-17 Championship
- Friday 19 May 2017
- Varazdin, Croatia
Goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and Phil Foden either side of Mateu Morey’s goal on the stroke of half-time for Spain put one English hand on the trophy.
That was snatched away as the dream turned to a nightmare when, in the sixth minute of added time, Diaz headed home a corner from the left.
Victor Chust slotted home the decisive penalty after Abel Ruiz, Morey and Sergio Gomez had converted before him to capitalise on Rhian Brewster and Joel Latibeaudiere’s missed spot-kicks.
It was incredibly harsh on Steve Cooper’s talented squad who had lit up this tournament in Croatia with 13 goals and just two conceded on their way to the final.
Amazingly, this match marked the first change to Cooper’s starting XI since the opening victory over Norway 15 days and five games ago. However, it came as no surprise given the nature of Tashan Oakley-Boothe’s injury in the semi-final win over Turkey that Alex Denny came into the England midfield.
Elsewhere, right-back Timothy Eyoma was also ruled out with injury meaning a recall for Manchester City’s Latibeaudiere, who only linked up with his team-mates 32 hours earlier having been summoned to Zagreb to take Oakley-Boothe’s squad place.
The dangerous Hudson-Odoi/Jadon Sancho link has proved so devastating for England throughout the course of this tournament and the pairing inflicted the first blow here in the 18th minute.
Jadon Sancho sent the Chelsea man on his way down the left flank, he drifted inside to have the Spanish defence back-pedaling before aiming an effort for the far corner that went beyond Alvaro Fernandez via a deflection off the shoulder of Hugo Guillamon.
However, Spain were prepared to make a game of it and levelled minutes before the break. In what was a clinical attacking move, captain Ruiz raced in behind the England backline and cut the ball back for Morey to hammer home from 12 yards.
After that finish to the first half, proceedings were edgy after the break, but Foden soon settled any nerves with a 58th-minute thunderbolt. A mix up at the back for Spain allowed a tame clearance to fall to the feet of the Manchester City midfielder 25 yards out on the right before he rifled a low left-footed drive in between the near post and the outstretched hand of Fernandez. That strike sparked jubilant celebrations as Foden charged towards the technical area, before producing a t-shirt that read ‘That’s for you, Tashan’ in honour of the injured Oakley-Boothe.
As Spain chased an equaliser, Josef Bursik was called into action to make a host of fine saves as this looked to be England’s night.
However, Aidan Barlow was the only Englishman to convert his penalty as Spain secured a 4-1 win in the latest test of the new ‘ABBA’ penalty format.
England: 1 Josef Bursik (AFC Wimbledon), 3 Lewis Gibson (Newcastle United), 4 George McEachran (Chelsea), 5 Marc Guehi (capt; Chelsea), 6 Jonathan Panzo (Chelsea), 7 Phil Foden (Manchester City), 9 Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), 10 Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), 11 Jadon Sancho (Manchester City), 15 Alex Denny (Everton), 19 Joel Latibeaudiere (Manchester City).
Substitutes used: 17 Aidan Barlow (Manchester United) for Hudson-Odoi 77, 16 Daniel Loader (Reading) for Foden 80, 14 Jake Vokins (Southampton) for Sancho 80+3.
Substitutes not used: 2 Timothy Eyoma (Tottenham Hotspur), 12 Reo Griffiths (Tottenham Hotspur), 13 Curtis Anderson (Manchester City), 18 Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal).
Goals: Hudson-Odoi 18, Foden 58.
Head coach: Steve Cooper.