Shoot-out drama goes England's way


KOLKATA — England goalkeeper Curtis Anderson saved a penalty and converted one of his own in a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory over Japan that sees the Three Lions into the quarterfinals at the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017. This after a goalless draw in Kolkata on Tuesday evening.

Spain, who beat France in Guwahati, Mali, who cruised past Iraq also in Guwahati, and Iran, who quelled Mexico, also made it to the tournament’s quarterfinals on Tuesday.

In the England-Japan encounter, Nya Kirby converted the winning spot-kick after Hinata Kida was the unfortunate victim of a fine save by the Manchester City custodian.

Despite controlling most of the match, England struggled to convert against the Asian side, who grew in confidence as the match progressed, and they will need to better take their chances in the quarterfinals against USA in Goa on Saturday.

Rhian Brewster was the early spark for the European side, creating a number of early chances in the first half — the best of which came in the 25th minute when he hit the post with his shot from a tight angle.

Led by Takefusa Kubo in attack, Japan showed marked improvement after the hour mark, but the match really came to life in the final ten minutes. For England, substitute Emile Smith Rowe went close in the 83rd minute, and Josef Bursik had a dangerous shot cut out shortly after.

For Japan, their best opportunity came in the 87th minute when substitute Naoki Tsubaki’s short pass into the box found captain Shimpei Fukuoka in space near the penalty spot, but his shot was deflected agonizingly past the left post.

A late penalty by Abel Ruiz sent Spain into the quarterfinals after a 2-1 victory over France. The result takes the European champions into a last-eight showdown against Iran in Kochi on Sunday.

The opening half was a cagey affair between these two European heavyweights, with little to separate the two sides through the first half hour. That changed on 34 minutes, as France took the lead through Lenny Pintor’s fine move and finish after Amine Gouiri picked him out on the left side of the Spain box.

Then, just before half-time, Spain drew level through Juan Miranda. The Barcelona defender made an unattended run into the France box to meet Ferran Torres’s cross from the right after France failed to clear their lines.

That equalizer seemed to inspire Spain in the second half, with Sergio Gomez having the pick of their chances. He forced France goalkeeper Yahia Fofana into a good save on 56 minutes before missing the target with an excellent free-kick opportunity.

As the match seemed destined for a penalty shoot-out at the full-time whistle, Spain were awarded a decisive spot-kick in the final minutes after substitute Jose Lara went down under the close attentions of defender Oumar Solet in the France box. Captain Ruiz stepped up to convert the penalty and send Spain into the last eight of the competition.

Iran made it four wins from four matches at the event and qualified for the quarterfinals after fighting to make two early goals stand up against a game Mexican side.

In just the seventh minute, Mohammad Sharifi converted a very confident penalty after Mohammad Ghaderi’s hard work to take the ball from Adrian Vasquez, who responded with a clumsy challenge in the Mexican box.

Just four minutes later, the Mexican defense looked out of sorts again, and they allowed Allahyar Sayyad far too much space in the box. The impressive forward gathered a long ball, turned and chipped his shot over the frustrated Mexican goalkeeper Cesar Lopez.

Iran, whose famous 4-0 win over Germany allowed them to blitz through their group, looked set to run away with the contest, but Mexico settled well after 30 minutes and began to have the better of the chances.

They tested Iran goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh several times first and then found their breakthrough in the 37th minute when Roberto de la Rosa thumped in a volley from near the edge of the area on the rebound.

The CONCACAF champions continued to look the more dangerous team throughout the second half, with Diego Lainez going close and Jairo Torres rattling the post near the hour mark.

However, Iran recovered and exerted their prowess, holding the ball well in the Mexican half to close out the match and reach their first-ever quarterfinal in this event. It was a difficult contest, but they maintained their momentum, heading into their last-eight clash against European champions Spain.

Mali cruised to a 5-1 victory over Iraq. With the win, the Chile 2015 runners-up will meet African opposition in the form of either Ghana or Niger in the quarterfinals in Guwahati on Saturday.

It was Les Aiglonnets that dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead through Hadji Drame on 25 minutes. Good work by Salam Jiddou on the left allowed the unmarked Drame to score the 2,000th goal in tournament history.

The Malians then doubled their advantage shortly after the half-hour mark, as Lassana N’Diaye made it four goals in as many matches when he headed home Djemoussa Traore’s cross at the near post.

Mali scored an emphatic third goal through Fode Konate in the second half. His powerful first-time strike from wide on the right flew past Iraq goalkeeper Ali Ibadi and into the roof of the net.

The Asian side would get a consolation through Ali Kareem before Mali added two late goals through Seme Camara and a second strike from N’Diaye to seal a comfortable win in Goa. — Agencies