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U17 World Cup 2017: Team of the Tournament

William Sinsky compiles the U17 World Cup 2017 Team of the Tournament, featuring the likes of Phil Foden and Abel Ruiz

The U17 World Cup in India was one for the record books. More goals were scored in this edition of the tournament than any other (183), and the total attendance of the competition numbered well beyond 1 million. It culminated in England winning their second World Cup this year after winning the U20 World Cup back in June. The trophy was even more sweet for the Three Lions as it came against Spain, who defeated England in this past spring’s U-17 European Championship. This World Cup was not without its abundance of talent. Here is Outside of the Boot’s Team of the Tournament.

Gabriel Brazao / 16 / Brazil / Goalkeeper: One of only three keepers to allow only one goal in the group stage, Gabriel Brazao was in fine form for Brazil. He allowed a total of just five goals in seven matches, including an impressive four clean sheets. Brazao’s tournament-best 29 saves were five more than the second-best keeper on the list, Mali’s Youssouf Koita, as he boasted the best save rate % for keepers who played more than one match.

Brazao’s positioning in front of goal was perfect. Countless saves were made as Brazil played with a very high line in possession. His man of the match performance came against Mali, making multiple dazzling saves, including what was arguably the save of the tournament. In the 65’ Mali whipped in a cross, the striker Lassana Ndiaye getting his head on it. It looped over the Brazilian defense, heading towards the far right of the goal. Brazao shifted over and stretched his right hand up, successfully knocking the ball away from his area. Securing third place for his nation, Gabriel Brazao was awarded the Golden Glove, and gave Brazil coaches an additional tool in the national team’s future plans.

Steven Sessegnon / 17 / England / Right Back: Despite not playing in every match of the tournament, Steven Sessegnon deserves to be on this list. His impact for England in the latter stages was vital and ultimately played a big part in England’s success. Sessegnon had five assists, three of them coming in the knockout stages. He assisted the go-ahead goal in the semifinals to Rhian Brewster, and he sparked the historic comeback in the Final by assisting his country’s first two goals in the match. His strong display in England’s final group stage match against Iraq was impactful as well; constantly bringing the ball forward, Sessegnon dribbled through Iraq’s midfield before hitting a through ball to open teammate Daniel Loader for an assist. Barely 12 minutes later, he executed the exact same action, to the exact same player. While Steven’s twin brother, Ryan, was not released by Fulham for the World Cup, the pair of full backs both have exciting paths ahead of them.

Joel Latibeaudiere / 17 / England / Center Back: Joel Latibeaudiere was another key in England’s victorious tournament run. As the captain of the squad, Latibeaudiere played as the last defender at the back, often the only man between the ball and the goalkeeper. Leading England to three clean sheets, he was a wall along the defense, tracking in behind the full backs if necessary. This position unfortunately also led to goals for the opposition at times, but that didn’t deter him, as his quickness often stifled attackers looking to take advantage. As comparisons to Vincent Kompany are starting to form, Joel Latibeaudiere’s future looks hopeful.

Taha Shariati / 17 / Iran / Center Back: The only two nations other than Brazil to play in the quarterfinals while only allowing five goals were Ghana and Iran. Iran’s Cinderella run in the tournament was unexpected and noticed by many, and on the defensive front of that run was Taha Shariati. Shariati’s tactical role was unique. He wasn’t afraid to get up the pitch, whether it was to get forward for balls into the opposing box or to disrupt attacks by pressing ball carriers into making quick decisions. He scored a well taken penalty in his country’s 3-0 win against Costa Rica and played a big part in Iran’s 4-0 shutout against powerhouse Germany as Germany only managed to get four shots on goal out of their 19 total shots. Vocally, Taha Shariati conducted his teammates along the back line well, and as Iran scored a total of 13 goals, this bold center back and the defense held their own.

Juan Miranda / 17 / Spain / Left Back: Spain reached the Final of the U-17 World Cup in large part due to their attacking style of play. The full backs were encouraged to push forward, and Juan Miranda did so with much aplomb. He repeatedly ran into the final third with and without the ball, at some points even as the highest playing Spaniard. Miranda’s performance proved this method effective, tallying an assist to Abel Ruiz against Niger and a headered goal against France in the round of 16. This strong left back is the first of three players from Barcelona’s academy in this side.

Abel Ruiz / 17 / Spain / Right Winger: The second Barcelona B member is the physical striker Abel Ruiz. Finishing tied for second with Ndiaye on six goals, Ruiz was often the target for Spain’s attack. He played up top throughout every match, though he has the ability to play on the wing as despite his sturdy frame he is also very quick. Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Cesar, and Ferran Torres all flashed brilliant one touch passing and were a joy to watch in buildup play that would make Pep Guardiola proud. Abel Ruiz had occasional misses, as any striker does in a major tournament, but the potential of this attacker is evident.

Phil Foden / 17 / England / Central Midfielder: The Golden Ball of the tournament was awarded to none other than English midfielder Phil Foden. With past award winners including names like Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos, Foden has pressure to live up to the billing. His spectacular dribbling skills for which he is lauded for were on full display down the right side of the pitch, and his speed and velocity on his shots revealed confidence. England’s counter attacks gave Foden the chance to fully exhibit these traits, as he scored two such goals in the Final. As Phil Foden ended the competition with three goals and one assist, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola has two quality players in this XI, and will likely have opportunities to get them out on the pitch with City making runs in all the major formats so far.

Alan / 17 /  Brazil / Central Midfielder: If Gabriel Brazao was the defensive player keeping Brazil in contest of the prize, then Alan was the attacking player giving them the lead. The Palmeiras midfielder consistently built up attacks, and his ball distribution was extremely impressive. His two assists showed both intelligence and vision, most notably his assist against Honduras in which he passed the ball off and snuck in behind the defenders, playing a short ground pass in to set up an easy goal. Alan got his goal in the third-place match when he capitalized off an error by a Mali defender. Linked to Real Madrid over the past week, Alan will have a number of suitors after this successful tournament performance.

Sergio Gomez / 17 /  Spain / Winger: The runner-up in the voting for the Golden Ball, Sergio Gomez had a considerable role for Spain. The left winger bagged four goals and hit two assists, including the first two goals in the Final to put Spain ahead 2-0. That both of his assists were crosses is not surprising, for as previously stated Spain built attacking play through the wide areas. Gomez can hold the ball well, which allows him to also aid in the midfield, and has sound shot accuracy, with two of his goals coming from outside of the box, one an absolute rocket against Iran. Spain’s U-17s reached their second consecutive tournament final, and while they didn’t hoist the trophy this time around, the future of La Roja, with Catalonia in the news, is surely one to watch over the next decade.

Rhian Brewster / 17 / England / Striker: The Three Lions scored the most goals at the U-17 World Cup with 23, six more than runners-up Spain, and tied for the third highest tally in the competition’s history. Leading that scoring, as the Golden Boot winner with eight goals, was Liverpool youngster Rhian Brewster. The striker displayed outstanding movement around defenders in the box as England’s wide men whipped in crosses. His work ethic was exceptional, adding an assist and even making a clearance off his own goal’s line during a United States corner kick. Scoring a penalty, a blistering free kick, back-to-back hat tricks, and the first of his nation’s five comeback goals in the Final, Rhian Brewster did it all, giving England its first U-17 World Cup trophy.

Jann-Fiete Arp / 17 / Germany / Striker: It’s a rare occurrence when a player gets compared to one of the best strikers in the world, so when Jann-Fiete Arp drew comparisons to Harry Kane, attention is necessary. The focal point of Germany’s attack, Arp scored five goals and notched three assists in the tournament- all the more impressive considering that was over the course of only five matches. While he positioned himself as the striker, he also commonly played as a center forward underneath a striker due to his all-around skills, both making runs into the box and creating space for teammates. Arp’s selfless assist against Colombia proved he’s a team player, and his goals against Colombia and Costa Rica proved he isn’t afraid to take on the defense by himself. Pair all this with a fantastic shot distribution, and you realize the comparison is not without warrant for the Hamburg goal scorer.

Read all our U17 World Cup content here

William Sinsky

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