Talking tactics: Brewster, Ruiz take centre stage in Euro final encore
England and Spain will reprise their 2017 European Under-17 Championships final at the Under-17 World Cup final in Kolkata on October 28, a match that will see the winner crowned world champions at this level for the very first time.
Which are the match-ups and contests that could decide the fate of this clash? What are expected to be the tactical plans of the two coaches? Here's a quick lowdown on what to expect on Saturday.
How they like to line up
Both England coach Steve Cooper and Santiago Denia of Spain prefer lining up in a 4-2-3-1, with an attacking trio of midfielders supporting a centre-forward in attack, and a link player from the central midfield duo performing the role of moving to and fro.
Interestingly, Cooper has utilised 20 of his 21-member squad over the six matches England have played in India this October, with Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund leaving the squad at the end of the league stages. None of his players have played all six matches other than central defenders Marc Guehi and captain Joel Latibeaudiere, with the latter the only player to have played every minute.
In contrast, Spain have had eight players play all of their six matches; goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez as well as central defender Hugo Guillamon have played every minute thus far. This, combined with the fact that England played their semi-final in Kolkata and were thus spared an extra flight, could mean a fresher England line-up come Saturday.
Abel Ruiz against the England defenders
England's back four will have to deal with the creativity of Ferran Torres and Sergio Gomez down the wings, but the biggest threat for them would be Barcelona's Abel Ruiz, who has scored four of his six goals in the knockout stages of the tournament, including a brace in the semi-final against Mali.
La Masia's Ruiz is adept at playing off the strengths of players alongside him, and will use his physicality well to take on the central defensive partnership of Latibeaudiere and Guehi. Unlike a number of other teams that England have played at this World Cup, Spain will keep the ball along the ground, and speed will be key to closing out spaces for Ruiz to exploit.
Watch out for Brewster
Liverpool's Rhian Brewster is picking up a healthy head of steam as the competition nears the business end. Successive hat-tricks against the U.S. and Brazil have carried him to seven goals, the only player clear of Ruiz in the goalscoring charts.
The job of containing him should fall to Victor Chust and Guillamon, who have improved as the tournament has progressed. What will work in Brewster's favour is that Spain have conceded at least one goal in four of the six matches played, and with Phil Foden and Callum Hudson-Odoi working the flanks, it could make it a busy night for Spain's full-backs Mateu Morey and Juan Miranda.
Also see: Can England learn from Euro final heartache?
The best playmaker of them all?
One area where Spain will have an outright advantage is in the presence of the Real Madrid duo of Cesar Gelabert and Mohamed Moukhliss in midfield. Gelabert, Torres and Gomez have all provided two assists each for Spain's goals, and their link-up with Ruiz in the semi-final in particular was outstanding. Moukhliss, 'Moha' to his teammates, complements Gelabert perfectly, occupying spaces left vacant by the front players and finishing off opportunities if they come his way, as he did when opening the scoring for Spain against North Korea.
England have fielded different players in the number 10 role, but Morgan Gibbs White has been the most effective. England's key moments in attack tend to be initiated from the wings, though, with Manchester City's Foden on the right and Chelsea's Hudson-Odoi across the left. Whether the Moha-Gelabert combination is able to keep the game to the centre of the pitch could determine how effectively England can vary their points of attack.
The ones who fight till the end
Both Denia and Cooper will be aware of the recent history between these countries at this level, and will thus prepare them for the possibility of a shootout.
There has been only one penalty shootout thus far in this U-17 World Cup, and England came out on the right side of the result against Japan. Spain's goalkeeper Fernandez has just 13 saves to show for his team's six matches, as compared to 19 for Curtis Anderson of England, a number bettered only by two other keepers in the tournament.
It would be easy to read into those figures and suggest that England's opposition have had more opportunities to shoot at their goal than Spain's. The key factor to be remembered there is that when these teams met Brazil, perhaps the best attacking force among all 24 teams other than the finalists, it was England that came out with a result in their favour.
Spain have improved much since the evening of October 7, though, and would be looking at this just as much as the English to prove a point about the progress their youth team has made in recent years.