A success story all the way

A success story all the way

In December 2013, when India were named the hosts for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, there were doubts on how the competition would pan out.

Will India, a country still struggling to come out of the problems that the 2010 Commonwealth Games left behind manage to host a competition of this magnitude? How will the crowd support the event largely featuring matches not involving the home team? These questions found the right answers as the tournament came to a hugely successful conclusion on Saturday, with numerous records taking a tumble. In terms of attendance and also in the number of goals scored, this edition was the best.

By hosting 24 national under-17 teams in matches spread over six venues, the nation showed its organisational capabilities while the fans embraced the tournament with unbridled enthusiasm.

On the field, talented youngsters gave India a memorable show of high-quality football. And it was fitting that England, a team that was unbeaten throughout the competition, went on to get the better of fellow Europeans Spain to lift their maiden crown.

The Steve Cooper-coached side adopted a patient game, moving the ball among them and waiting for the perfect opening to exploit the opposition. "I have never seen an England team play this way. It's entreating and exciting at once," said former England defender Sol Campbell, who watched his country stage an incredible fightback in the final.

Their win also helped England avenge their loss in the final of the U-17 Euros in May and became only the ninth country to clinch the title. The win meant the Young Lions capped off a fantastic year at the age-group level that also saw them win the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the UEFA U-19 Euros.

While England's performance was a welcome surprise, the other big names in Ghana, Brazil, Germany and the US put their best effort in making the World Cup a memorable experience for many.

India, as expected, didn't go beyond the group stages, losing their three ties to heavyweights US, Ghana and Colombia. However, the team made the most of their time on the field and showed glimpses of their quality. While Jeakson Singh became the first-ever Indian to score a goal at a FIFA World Cup, the likes of Rahul KP, Komal Thatal and Dheeraj Moirangthem made the most of the opportunity to catch the eye of various scouts present.

Though the success of this tournament has prompted the All India Football Federation to bid for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup, it would mean nothing if the officials do not capitalise on the momentum generated by India's maiden tryst with a FIFA event.

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