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Spanish matadors look to tame English lions

Kolkata: A riveting contest is on the cards when England and Spain lock horns in the first-ever all-European summit clash of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup which will have a new champion tomorrow after a record-breaking tournament.
After three weeks of high intensity and top quality football, only England and Spain remain in contention for the top honour. And both sides will be seeking their maiden title when they come out in front of the full-capacity 66,000-odd crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
A goal feast can be expected from two of the most aggressive sides in the tournament. While England have scored 18 goals so far, Spain have 15 to their credit.
England are playing in their maiden final in their fourth appearance while Spain have featured as losing finalists on three earlier occasions in 1991, 2003 and 2007.
It will be a repeat of the European U-17 Championship match in Croatia in May when Spain had emerged winners on a penalty shootout after a 2-2 stalemate in the regulation time and the Three Lions will be looking for revenge on Saturday.
A win for England will also herald an unprecedented year for their colts as their Under-20 team had won the World Cup in Korea earlier this year while their Under-19 side were the European champions.
In its bid to wake up a "sleeping giant", the FIFA had allotted this U-17 World Cup to India in December 2013, but this edition is turning out to be record-breaking one in terms of most spectator attendance and number of goals.
With two matches — the third place playoff and the final — remaining, the total number of spectators from the 50 matches so far has already logged 1,224,027 which is a mere 6949 less than the earlier record attendance of 1,230,976 in the first edition of the tournament in China in 1985.
With the Kolkata crowd expected to turn up in large numbers in the third place match between Brazil and Mali as well, this tournament is set to become the most attended of any FIFA U-17 or U-20 tournament. It is likely to go past the 13,09,929 spectator mark that turned up in the 2011 Colombia edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. This India edition is also set to become the highest scoring tournament with 170 goals from 50 matches so far, just two goals behind the earlier highest of 172 during the 2013 edition in the United Arab Emirates.
With three more goals from the remaining two matches, this edition will have the best goal average since the format was changed in 2007 to a 24-team affair from the earlier 16-team participation.
On form, there is very little to differentiate between the two though England may start slight favourites having shocked pre-tournament favourites Brazil in the semifinals while also having played all but one of their six earlier matches at the same stadium.
England also is the only unbeaten side in the tournament while Spain had lost to Brazil in their campaign-opener.
England's only blemish so far had been their inability to beat Japan in the regulation time in the pre-quarterfinals though they won through penalty shootout.
Spain and England have now met three times in the final of European U-17 Championships. The 'La Rojita' were triumphant in 2007, before the Three Lions took their revenge three years later. The Spaniards once more emerged victorious in May, but only after a nail-biting climax.
In the European final, England had almost won the title but Spain grabbed an equaliser from the last kick of the match in the injury-added time before prevailing over their opponents in the penalty shootout 4-1. Both sides enjoy possessing the ball for long but Spain, famous for their tika-taka style, will no doubt have more possession as they have been doing all through the tournament.
There will also be some individual battles to fight between star England striker Rhian Brewster and his Spain counterpart and captain Abel Ruiz both of who have single-handedly taken their sides to the final. Brewster, who sent Brazil packing with his second hat- trick of the tournament, and Ruiz, whose double strike against Mali sealed a summit clash spot for Spain, have scored seven and six goals respectively and they are in the running for the Golden Boot Award.
England are expected to play their tried and tested 4-2- 3-1 formation with Curtis Anderson between the sticks behind the back four ably marshaled by captain Joel Latibeaudiere, Marc Guehi, Jonathan Panzo and Steven Sessegnon.
Coach Steve Cooper is expected to start with Tashan Oakley Boothe and George McEachran at the central midfield while putting Callum Hudson Odoi and Philip Foden at the flanks. Morgan Gibbs White should be behind center forward Brewster.
'U-17 World Cup a success but no commitment on U-20 bid'
Kolkata: World football governing body chief Gianni Infantino on Friday described the FIFA U-17 World Cup as a "resounding success" but refrained from giving any commitment on India's bid to host the U-20 World Cup in 2019.
Infantino, who addressed the media after the FIFA Council Meeting here, declared a football continent and said that FIFA will continue to work with India to continue the momentum generated by the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup.
"The FIFA U-17 World Cup in India is a resounding success with some records broken. India is not only a country but a continent in itself. But I have now found out that India is also not only a football country but is a football continent.
The way the (FIFA U-17) World Cup has been perceived by the people of India has been amazing," said Infantino during a media conference.
"Having seen the U-17 World Cup in India, I can say that it was worth allotting this to India. There was very good competition among teams and attendance was amazing. Not only the U-17 World Cup record, it can even break the all time attendance record in an U-20 World Cup which is 1.3 million spectators in the 2011 Colombia edition."
Asked whether FIFA will consider India's bid to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup despite the fact that South Korea, another Asian country, has hosted the tournament earlier this year, Infantino was non-committal.
"This year, there were two World Cups this year. The U-20 World Cup in South Korea was a successful one and then this U-17 World Cup in India has also been a success.
"We have received request from several countries expressing desire to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Now the FIFA administration Will analyse this and present it (a report) to the FIFA Council early next year (for a decision)," he said.
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