Not only did Hallam Hope's two goals for England against Serbia help the holders through to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship last four but they took the Everton FC striker top of the finals scorers' table.
Hope had previously struck in England's 2-2 draw with France but after his team lost 2-0 to Denmark they needed victory against the hosts in Indjija on Monday to have any chance of progress from Group A. After Bradley Smith opened the scoring, Hope doubled the lead with a fantastic, swerving 20-metre shot on nine minutes and not long after added another to seal a 3-0 win which, thanks to France's 1-0 loss to Denmark, ensures England a Thursday semi-final against the Netherlands.
Now a goal clear of Denmark forward Viktor Fischer, Germany's Samed Yesil – suspended for their semi with the Danes – and Sébastien Haller of eliminated France, Hope admits his side had to recover from their preceding defeat quickly. "We were a bit down but we knew we had to perform in this game," Hope said. "It took a big lift from all the lads together to come away with the three points."
The performance was particularly impressive as Serbia had the support of a capacity 3,950 crowd in Indjija. "I thought it was a good crowd, a good atmosphere," Hope said. "And everyone looked like they were having fun, so that's good."
As for his personal feats, Hope – who singles out former Everton attacker Wayne Rooney as a role model – added: "
It'll give me confidence to keep scoring goals so hopefully I can keep doing that and help us win the tournament."
To do that, they will have to see off the Netherlands in Novi Sad. "I've only seen them a little bit, they look like a good team," Hope said. "But I think we've got good enough players to give them a game and hopefully we can win."
Victory would take them a step closer to emulating the success of last year's squad in Liechtenstein, and the status of defending champions has spurred England on. "[There's] not pressure," the forward continued. "It kind of boosts you, makes you want to win more." And as for being captained by 2010 veteran Nathaniel Chalaboh, Hope said: "It has helped. Nathaniel is a good player and he talks to us a lot and helps us through the tournament."
But Hope is not bad either, as manager John Peacock attests: "The boy works tirelessly for the team. His endeavour, his quality on the ball is without question and his goalscoring record is quite phenomenal for England so we're delighted to have him. He's got a long way to go, he's a young player, but he's prepared to learn and listen, and that's fantastic."
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.