England’s Under-17s broke an age-old national tradition by triumphing in a via a penalty shoot-out in a knock-out tournament on Tuesday, defeating Japan 5-4 on spot-kicks after a goalless game in Kolkata.
Royals striker Danny Loader and his Young Lions colleagues can now begin gearing up for a quarter-final fixture with USA in Margao on Saturday, after the Americans made light work of Paraguay with a 5-0 win in their last-16 fixture.
After netting twice against Iraq in the final of England’s group fixtures, Loader was on the bench for the meeting against a Japan side which had finished second behind France in their group.
But the England attack, which had been prolific with 11 goals from three pool-stage outings, found themselves frustrated by their opponents’ defence. Rhian Brewster came closest before the interval, rifling a shot which skimmed the outside of the upright.
In the second half, there were few better chances than that which fell the way of Nya Kirby after some clever play on the byline by Callum Hudson-Odoi, but the low drive was blocked out.
And so penalties ensued… and the Young Lions were clinical from the spot. All five England takers found the net – including goalkeeper Curtis Anderson, who stepped up to take one after he had guessed right to deny Hinata Kida.
After regularly playing in front of over 50,000 supporters each evening in Kolkata, England’s Under-17s now face their first trip away as they meet their USA counterparts at 3.30pm UK-time on Saturday at the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao.