The body language of England colts during the tense tie-breaker impressed coach Steve Cooper the most as they reached the quarterfinals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup riding a 5-3 win on penalty shootouts against Japan here on Tuesday night.
“Penalties are tense. It’s a shootout situation and a win or lose situation so…ya we really belived in them and loved the players’ body language during the shootout on and off the pitch. That body language helped us score and save one as well,” Cooper told reporters after the match.
Substitute Nya Kirby scored England’s winning spot kick after Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Phil Foden and goalkeeper Curtis Anderson had netted their takes with Anderson’s save from Japan’s Hinata Kida making the difference.
England have a dismal record in penalty shootouts and this team recently faced a reversal against Spain in the European U-17 championships final in the tie-breaker.
On Tuesday though, the boys looked composed and showed nerves of steel while stepping out to take the spot kicks.
“We have talked about it (tie-breakers) yesterday. Part of our work with the teams is to work on and develop all parts of international football,” Cooper said.
“Penalty shootouts are something that will happen to these players the longer they stay in the system. It’s great when you win on penalties and it’s the harshest way to lose a game when you lose on penalties but we can’t fight it, we can’t get away from it.
“We have to thrive on it, we have to plan for it and learn from when we lose them and celebrate them when we win as well.
“So, there are loads of ways of winning a game and penalty shootouts is one. We have a moment tonight and it was important we win it here,” the coach said.
England will now take on the USA in Goa on October 21. Their stay in Kolkata remained perfect with three group stage wins and this round of 16 triumph.
Cooper said playing in front of such strong crowds helped the young boys immensely and that they would love to come back here for the final on October 28.
“We would love to come back to Kolkata. It’s been amazing. Not just the crowd, it’s been an amazing attendance. So good for the players to be playing in front of such big crowds, and that’s true for all the teams, not just England. The local public need a pat in the back for that.”
Cooper admitted the game against Japan was very tough, adding he was happy the team did not leak goals and kept a clean sheet.
“We did not concede, that was a massive plus. Listen it was a really tough game tonight. Japan will feel hard done by. They played some really good football in the second half. They had some shots from the edge of the box. They didn’t get clear cut chances but that was because our defenders were around the box. We had our chances.
“I thought we could have been a little bit more threatening in the first half. We have scored 11 goals in the tournament but we need to not concede as well. We did that tonight.”
Goalkeeper Anderson, who plays for Manchester City, stepping out to take a penalty moments after saving one was part of the plan, Cooper said.
“It was in the plan. Something that we have used before and like I said we have a strategy for taking penalty shootouts and whoever is in is in the list whether he is an outfield player, or a sub or a goalkeeper..very much in the plan.”
England have reached the quarters only twice before, in 2007 and 2011. Cooper said equalling that record this time also means their youth teams are on the right track.
“We have equalled England’s record of going furthest in this tournament, that is the quarter-finals. It’s a good recognition as to where the English teams are at the moment.”