Can England learn from Euro final heartache?
Five months after they met in the final of the 2017 Euro U-17 final, Spain and England will clash again, this time in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Kolkata on Saturday. Here's an attempt to draw some conclusions from their meeting in May.
What happened in that game?
Spain beat England on penalties after a 2-2 draw to win their third European U-17 title. In the penalty shoot-out, Liverpool's Rhian Brewster, the current top-scorer of this World Cup, hit the post and Manchester City's Joel Latibeaudiere shot over the bar as England lost their first game in 12 matches.
The match was what one would expect from a final.
Callum Hudson-Odoi's deflected curler gave England the lead in the 18th minute before Spain's right-back Mateu Morey scored the equaliser before half-time by finishing off a fine move. In the 58th minute, Phil Foden restored England's one-goal advantage with a fine low shot from long range, but Spain's killer blow came in probably the last chance of the game. Two substitutes Jose Alonso, with a corner, and Nacho Diaz, with a header, combined to score a dramatic late equaliser.
What did we learn?
Spain dominated England in possession, shots on goal and chances created, with 13 attempts on goal to England's three. Both England goals were acts of individual brilliance and Spain, caught by surprise on both occasions, ended up playing catch-up. "We work to have ball possession most of the time" is the philosophy of Santi Denia, Spain's coach in May and now Spain's relentless pressure kept England on the backfoot and it was finally the keeper, who could have saved Diaz's equaliser with a stronger punch, who succumbed to that pressure.
Without dwelling too much on Spain's superior stats, it was an even contest, a battle of two midfields, and as is always the case in big finals, the team with the biggest temperament won.
What can we expect from this game?
Although a lot has changed since, the tournament and the fans would benefit from seeing more of what Spain and England put on display in Croatia five months ago.
England have promoted Curtis Anderson - who was their second choice at the Euros - as their first-choice goalkeeper. He saved a penalty and scored one in the penalty shoot-out round-of-16 win against Japan. Brewster, who scored three at the Euros, is currently in hot form but there is no Jadon Sancho, who was recalled by Borussia Dortmund after the group stages.
Spain's team is more or less the same with the same formula working this time: Abel Ruiz getting the goals and the midfield helping Spain dominate the possession stats.
From the looks of it another battle of the midfield beckons. The players who feed Ruiz and Brewster the best will probably decide the game. And since England's midfield have been industrious and Spain's creative, there will be no shortage of good service.