England Under-17 boys did what their senior team footballers could not for many years by keeping their nerves during tie-breakers to edge past Japan 5-3 and advance to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here in Kolkata….A special report by Debayan Mukherjee for Asian Lite News
For England, Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden, goalkeeper Curtis Anderson and Nya Kirby were on target during penalty shootout after both teams were locked goalless at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
Japan’s Hinata Kida’s effort from the spot was saved by Anderson, with Yukinari Sugawara, Taisei Miyashiro and Soichiro Kozuki converting their penalties.
This is the third time England have advanced to the quarter-finals, the other two times being in 2007, 2011.
England will now take on the United States in Goa on October 21. This is the first time since European championships in 1996 that England claimed shootout success.
Both England and Japan made wholesale changes to their first XI for their last group engagements. While England strolled to a 4-0 win despite the eight alterations to their starting line-up against Iraq, Japan were surprisingly held 1-1 by minnows New Caledonia as they made nine changes to the team that lost 1-2 to France.
For this clash, Japan made two changes from the France game, with skipper Shimpei Fukuoaka, and Toichi Suzuki in for Kohei Okuno and Seiya Baba.
The Asian powerhouses warmed English keeper Curtis Anderson’s gloves early on with a low drive which the Manchester City custodian dived low to his left to save.
England took time to get into gear with their 14th minute break forcing Japan’s Yuki Kobayashi to wrestle Rhian Brewster down after the Liverpool striker was set up by a combination of Phil Foden and skipper Angel Gomes. Kobayashi will miss the next game.
Brewster tested Japan keeper Kosei Tani soon after from a Gomes pass, while at the other end Takefusa Kubo skied an effort from 25 yards.
Steven Sessegnon — playing in place of Timothy Emoya at right-back — was then guilty of a poor cross inside the box as England looked the more likelier of the two teams to move ahead.
England’s best chance came in the 27th minute when Brewster rattled the post off Foden’s spadework.
Left-back Jonathan Panzo was booked for a tackle on Japan’s Keito Nakamura as England continued to press forward. Foden shot straight at the goalkeeper as Japan’s Soichiro Kozuki disturbed the side-netting in the first-half added time.
Shortly after the break, McEachran tested the reactions of the Japan keeper with a low drive from outside the box. Tani adjusted well after the ball took a deflection to save low down to his left.
Japan coach Yoshiro Moriyama took off Nakamura and brought in Naoki Tsubaki but England continued to attack only to be denied by their rivals resilient defence deep inside their own half. Four minutes into the hour-mark, Gomes was taken off with Emile Smith-Rowe replacing him.
The brilliant Tashan Oakley-Boothe was also taken out soon after with Morgan Gibbs White coming on for the midfielder.
Japan mustered their best chance of the match when Kubo was allowed space to run into the area and drill a low shot that Anderson saved.
Odoi, who was superb in the second period, made space down the left inside channel to cut back inside the box but substitute Nya Kirby’s shot was blocked by a Japanese defender.
Tsubaki came close to taking the lead for Japan but his shot from 10 yards took a deflection off Joel Latibeaudiere and deflected wide as the 90 minutes of normal time didn’t yield any goal, leading to the penalty shootout where the England team fared better.