Wickham earns first European title for England in 17 years

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The Independent Online

A goal from Connor Wickham, Ipswich Town's highly-rated striker, secured the Under-17 European Championship for England at the Rheinpark Stadium in Vaduz, Liechtenstein yesterday. Given that no England side has won a trophy of this significance since 1993, when a team containing Robbie Fowler, Sol Campbell and Paul Scholes won the Under-19 European title, this 2-1 win over Spain constitutes quite some achievement.

England had to come from behind after Spain broke the deadlock in the 22nd minute, courtesy of an own goal from Andre Wisdom, who deflected a cross into his own net. Undaunted, however, the young Liverpool defender strode upfield to equalise for England in the 30th minute.

The winning goal came three minutes before the break when the dangerous Wickham brushed off three Spanish defenders before firing a 20-yard shot into the back of the net. Wickham had claimed two goals to help England put pay to France in the semi-final on Thursday evening.

Before the game, England captain Conor Coady had said this final brought together the two best Under-17 sides in Europe, and, keen to observe the latest players to emerge from Spain's seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of talent, the Spanish senior squad were in the crowd to support their youngsters, many of them having played in this championship over the years.

Representing England at the final, having flown from Austria, was Sir Trevor Brooking, who was quick to heap praise on England's Under-17s before the final. Brooking, the Football Association director of football development, enthused: "This Under-17 group is probably the best I've seen in my time at the FA.

"If they took off their England shirts, you could not tell which country they come from. What is really exciting is that if we win the bid for 2018, this crop will be in their mid-20s and some of them definitely have full-cap potential.

"It's really important that Fabio [Capello] takes such a keen interest in the younger teams. He wants to find ten outfield players who are all comfortable on the ball, who can keep possession and play through all three thirds of the pitch. It is fantastic that our teams in all three age-groups are playing like that and getting such important tournament experience."

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