The Indian team may have crashed out in the first round of the under-17 World Cup, but that there are a lot of positives the hosts should derive from hosting the World Cup, feels former England international Sol Campbell. Sol, who has played 73 times for England feels that it won’t be surprising if India manage to qualify for the World Cup in the future, given the nature of interest and good response the World Cup has been able to generate. Campbell is currently in Kolkata to witness the final match of the World Cup. One of the main takeaways from hosting the under-17 World Cup is the fact that football got a major exposure at least in the country . This is what Sol feels is a major positive. He goes on to say,” When one considers that India is a cricket crazy country, then I am happy to note that there is a football buzz in the country. It’s the buzz and feeling which actually helps in building the right atmosphere for the game of football to thrive.”
The sheer population of a country like India also made Sol feel that it augurs well for them to make a good football loving nation. “When you have over a billion people then I can say that there is a strong possibility that the game will be followed and one can think there will be young and talented stars coming through the ranks,” he said
The huge crowd of nearly 70,000, which was seen in Kolkata during the semi-finals between Brazil and Germany, also proved to be a real indicator for the rapidly growing popularity of the sport. “I could never imagine that in a match in which India was not playing there could be such a big crowd. This means that the game is quite popular and this feel is a big factor which is going to help Indian soccer,” he said.
As regards the final, Sol feels it is going to be a tough match. “It will be an even match. Both teams have impressed so far and they already came up against each other at the European U-17 Championship. That game needed a penalty shootout to produce a winner, which shows that they›re evenly matched,” he said.
Speaking on the game, Campbell said that while Spain passed confidently, the challenge for England will be to manage the game “streetwise”.
“Spain can play at a high tempo and they pass the ball confidently. England are very organised and will have to make sure to be streetwise in managing the game — that will be the challenge for them. As an Englishman, I›m obviously pleased to see them reach the final. It›s great to see how English youth football is improving,” he said.
When asked to name the players who have impressed him the most, the 43-year-old Sol mentioned England›s striker Rhian Brewster and Spain›s forward Abel Ruiz. Brewster leads the scorers› chart with seven goals, including two back-to-back hat-tricks against the US in the quarter-final and Brazil in Wednesday›s semi-final.
“Well the team comes first, always—no individual player can succeed without a strong team behind him. But at a tournament, every team needs two or three players to stand out, if you want to win the trophy.
“For example, England have Rhian Brewster, who›s scoring from pretty much anywhere, while Spain have Abel Ruiz, another striker, who›s extremely good in front of goal. It will be exciting to see them go head-to-head on Saturday,” he said.
Sol was all praise for Mali, who went down 1-3 to Spain in the semi-final on Wednesday. “For me, Mali played very well at the tournament, even in losing to Spain. They had a lot of chances, but they lack that composure in the final third, and in terms of tactics especially, the African teams have some ground to make up.