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2017: Jadon Sancho

A favourite among the locals, left-winger Jadon Sancho created and/or scored a goal in all six of England's matches in Croatia as Steve Cooper's side reached the final.
by Wayne Harrison
2017: Jadon Sancho
Jadon Sancho celebrates his long-range strike against Ireland in the quarter-finals ©Sportsfile

2017: Jadon Sancho

A favourite among the locals, left-winger Jadon Sancho created and/or scored a goal in all six of England's matches in Croatia as Steve Cooper's side reached the final.

England's Jadon Sancho was seconds away from rounding off a dazzling individual campaign with a 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship winners' medal when Spain substitute Nacho Díaz forced penalties with a headed equaliser six minutes into added time.

The Young Lions' subsequent defeat on spot kicks after a 2-2 draw in the Varazdin final deprived them of a record third title at this level, Díaz's intervention moments earlier having denied England a clean sweep of 12 victories in the 2016/17 competition.

Left-winger Sancho featured in ten of those matches, including all six at the final tournament. Though No9s Amine Gouiri of France and Germany's Jann-Fiete Arp registered more goals, it is arguable that neither player was as influential for their respective sides as Sancho was to England's cause.

©Sportsfile

A glance at the statistics will explain why. Of the 15 goals scored by Steve Cooper's team in Croatia, the Manchester City talent was directly involved in ten of them – five goals, five assists. In short, Sancho was a difference-maker of the highest order, one whose class was noted by opposition coaches.

"Sancho and [Phil] Foden are very good," said Germany coach Christian Wück ahead of the knockout stage. "I've never seen better players than these two at this age."

Club-mates Foden and Sancho combined to ruthless effect in the semi-finals when the latter finished off the former's eye-of-a-needle pass with aplomb, doubling England's lead in an encounter with Turkey they would eventually win 2-1.

That was just one snapshot of what Sancho has in his arsenal. Others, sadly not captured on camera, were his long-range strike against the Republic of Ireland and a virtuoso display versus Ukraine in which he laid on the first two goals before scoring the third in a 4-0 success.

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Unsurprisingly, Sancho was a firm favourite among the locals, particularly the many children in attendance, their excitement audibly increasing whenever he was on the ball.

Cooper, though, could never be drawn on his prized asset. For the coach, it was about deflecting attention away from the No11 and stressing the importance of the group. Sancho, however, was unquestionably the jewel in the England crown.

"We think our biggest strength is the team and playing as a team," said Cooper. "Every player and member of staff will say the same and anything that's achieved is down to how the team performs as a union. We're united in one way – whether that's the players who start or those on the bench.

"I understand that those at the top of the pitch get more of the headlines, but we've been really pleased with how the rest of the team has created those chances for the boys. Likewise, we've been pleased with how the attacking players have stuck to their task and committed to the out-of-possession ideas as well."

Last updated: 26/05/17 15.34CET

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