England coach Steve Cooper was full of praise for Phil Foden and the work being done at the youth level in the country after his team beat Spain to win their first-ever U-17 World Cup in Kolkata on Saturday.
"A little bit surreal," Cooper said of the feeling. "It might even feel a little bit better tomorrow when we realize what we have achieved. I think it is a fair reflection of the way we have done and the character of English players. To come back from 2-0 down to win 5-2 shows the character of these players."
After letting in two goals in 30 minutes, England crawled back and scored five -- with Foden playing a pivotal role in the famous comeback. With this, England won the World Cup as the tournament's leading scorers, playing open, attractive football.
"The results and the winning is amazing, but the football we have played -- the belief and the identity," Cooper said. "We have played the way that we want the England team to play. 2-0 down and to win 5-2 in a World Cup final and not one long ball. Pass, pass, pass. We have a plan that we can do at the very best and against the very best. Phil's got player of the tournament, but all the boys have got the gold medal. You don't win a World Cup as individuals."
Spain's coach Santi Denia was "heartbroken" after the loss, saying that his team couldn't handle England's left-hand channel where Callum Hudson-Odoi, who provided two assists, was devastating. Both of Callum-Hudson-Odoi's assists came to Foden, who Denia described as a "great player". "We tried to defend him as a team, either with Juan [Miranda] or as a team, but he was better than us," he said.
England's comeback began on the cusp of half-time when they pulled one back through Rhian Brewster -- who won the golden boot award with eight goals. They went on to score four more, physically outclassing the Spanish.
"I think scoring before half-time and scoring to make it 2-2 was the turning point of the match," Brewster said. Foden went on to win the golden ball award with three goals and one assist, but more importantly he was at centre of every England attack throughout the tournament. "Phil's a great player. As soon he gets the ball, he always knows what he wants to do," Brewster said.
Cooper made sure it was not only Foden who got the credit, but the whole England fraternity that worked in youth football over the years.
"Young footballers in England, the ones we are bringing into our teams, are a credit to the generation," he said. "Sometimes they get a tough stick with too much too soon and attitude. But that will happen in any walk of life. I believe in the academies developing not just good footballers but also good people. I am really proud of every team that I have worked with, been with these boys for two years. But sometimes a wrong impression is made of the young footballers in England.
"You have to see how hard they train and how hard they work. They interact with the staff and show respect. We are like a family and that should be recognized. These boys are a credit to their families, to the clubs and the schools. They enjoyed the moment, didn't they? I don't know what they are doing in the dressing room. They showed a lot of heart. Really proud of them. Still a long way to go before they show what they can do."