England won’t forget Kolkata experience, says coach Cooper

Kolkata, Oct 13 (IANS) Irrespective of how far England go in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the players will leave Indian shores with a rich experience of playing in front of big crowds which, their coach Steve Cooper said, is something they don’t get at this level.

At the colossal Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan which has a capacity of 66,687, for the World Cup due to security reasons, England have played two of their three group games in front of some 40,000 spectators.

England’s Borussia Dortmund prodigy Jadon Sancho has been a crowd favourite with his feints and dribbles down the left flank.

Asked about who he thinks is a formidable side capable enough to challenge England who have been in hot form, Cooper said the coverage in India has been brilliant and their players have had a great experience playing in front of such big crowds at such a young age.

“The coverage in India has been brilliant. I have never noticed that before in the development tournaments back in Europe and World Cups. It’s exciting as by the time the days are winding down, the games are on television and the players and ourselves can see the game,” Cooper told reporters on the eve of their game against Iraq.

“I personally think the level of the tournament has been excellent. There has been a few surprises and a few teams have done well according to expectation,” he added.

“The platform is great for players to go and express themselves. However far we get in this tournament, when we get back on the plane these boys will be better England players and we are very grateful for that. we are trying to maximise the opportunity we are getting.”

England have qualified for the knockout stages with two wins from two matches and will play for top spot in Group F on Saturday.

Quizzed what will happen to these players when they get back to their respective clubs in the English Premier League and play for the reserve sides, Cooper said: “I know I have said on a few occasions that this environment …50,000 plus crowd is unheard of in developing tournaments.”

“Maybe one off game with the host nation being involved but re-producing crowds like that is a fantastic opportunity for the players to experience what a top game looks like at the top flight…at the senior level.

“If these boys breakthrough to the first team in the Premier League, they will be playing in front of capacity crowds every week which is at least 25,000. The bigger clubs are expanding and you’re looking at 60-70,000.

“So to get an experience like this is so beneficial as early as this in their careers. FIFA and Indian FA has done a really good job in producing what is already a fantastic event and what we are so proud to be part of. We want to go as far as we can,” the coach said.

Cooper opined the tournament will only take shape after the pre-quarterfinals and any team can beat the other on a given day.

“The tournament I personally think would not start taking shape until after the round of 16. For the teams to get through, I generally think that anybody can cause damage on a particular day.”

On Mohammed Dawood, who has carried Iraq virtually on his shoulders against Mexico and Chile scoring three goals, Cooper said they have plans for the “threats” the Asian U-16 champions can pose.

“Playing in a World Cup, the best part is you come up against best players of every opposition. We have seen some really good talents against Chile and Mexico. tomorrow will be no different. Dawood has had a great start to the tournament, scored a lot of goals and has had a big impact. (He was good) in qualification also which should not go unnoticed.

“We were very much aware of him before we travelled down here and part of the game plan is to control what we think Iraq’s biggest threats are and that is an obvious one. But that’s no different to any other game. Any game you play out here will be dangerous,” he added.

Saturday’s tie could be the last for Sancho who has to fly back to Germany for club duties. Coach Cooper did not want to directly comment on that, saying they are about a team and not one individual.

“Jadon’s available for the game tomorrow. Whether he plays or not remains to be seen. As past that day, we haven’t crossed that bridge yet. I know I have been saying this a lot but all we need to do it focus on the game tomorrow,” the coach said.

“We are up against a strong opposition in Iraq who have produced some good performances in the last two games against Chile and Mexico. So that’s all we are focusing on at the moment. We will cross the bridge when we come to it,” he added.

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