England's dominant, emphatic performance in their opening match of the Under-17 World Cup -- a 4-0 win over Chile -- could redefine what English football means to their audience. The energetic and creative performance, featuring goals by high-profile strikers Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi, along with a deadball beauty from Angel Gomes, was an exhibition of how England wants its young footballers to play.
It is what is being taught down the ranks across age levels and what its national coaches refer to as the "England DNA" blueprint. England coach Steve Cooper told ESPN that the England DNA game was about "possession" and playing an exciting brand of football. "We have a possession-based game, we want to play with the football and decide games with a football. There is no doubt about that."
Much was on witness at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday and Cooper said the new plans had been in place for the last few years since England had set up a centralised facility in the form of the St George's Park National Football Centre in 2012. Having a single base, Cooper said, allows for interaction between the age groups and national teams. "We've got a clear plan in how we are working and where we want the national teams to end up. St George's Park has been a big advantage. We are now in a place where our senior team, with Gareth Southgate in charge, has allowed there to be a real clear path from top to bottom."
The England DNA blueprint is seen as England's push for greater success across national teams. "It is our plan for performance - about how the coaches coach, the players play and how they behave. Not just for one team but for all the teams."
England's victory in the U-20 World Cup in South Korea this June was their first at an international competition since their epochal 1966 World Cup triumph at home. The U-17 World Cup won't be getting much notice in England given the fact that the high-intensity, attention-grabbing Premiere League season is on. What will get some notice though will be their progress through the knock-out rounds.
The co-operation between the FA and England's clubs has been vital in helping the national project gain greater strength. The majority of the England squad are signed on with Premier League clubs with the exception of Sancho, who plays for Borussia Dortmund, and two more -- Daniel Loader of Reading FC and William Crellin from Fleetwood Town. The players' fundamentals are mostly polished in the club academies and Cooper says the FA and the clubs are able to work seamlessly with each other.
"We really see the benefits of the work that they are doing. What's pleasing is that they obviously see the benefit of the players coming with England and the experiences they get with us. It helps both in club football and international football - in terms of the players' long term development."
Getting international results to remain in sync with the DNA blueprint plans, Cooper says, is difficult. "It is easier said than done. We want all of our teams to play in a certain way, it doesn't always happen because it's hard and you often up against some really good teams as well. But our intention is whatever game you're playing, whether it be a friendly match or a World Cup game, our intention and our ideas of how we want the team to play doesn't change."
The eventual outcome from the DNA plans, Cooper says, is "to help us to be successful in tournaments here and now and also in a way to help the players in the long term, being successful at the senior level."