Twelve boys, aged 10 to 12 from London, have returned from playing in the Danone Nations Cup World Finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after finishing a very respectable 12th.
The team faced international giants, Argentina, Uruguay and Bulgaria in their qualifying group, which they progressed successfully from in second place after securing one win and two draws, gaining five points from a maximum of nine.
England faced Japan in the round of 16 match losing 1 – 0 an extremely tight game. Japan would eventually become tournament winners, conceding just one goal and scoring 17.
To determine their ranking in the tournament, England played three further games, winning 6 – 5 on penalties against Italy after a 2 – 2 draw, followed by a 4 – 1 loss against France and 1 – 0 loss against the USA, resulting in a final ranking of 12th from 32 teams.
Manager of Team England, Paul Harper said: “It was a once in a lifetime experience, stepping out into the Corinthians stadium was a dream come true. The team played very well throughout the tournament and to be knocked out by the eventual winners in a tight 1-0 loss shows what a strong performance we put in.”
Former Tottenham, Liverpool and England centre back John Scales, an ambassador for the tournament said: “Team England definitely did the nation proud, progressing out of the group was a major achievement and there is no shame in being knocked out by the champions. They showed real character and fight and I hope that they have had an experience they will never forget.”
Each year, 2.5m children worldwide take part in the competition, which has former France and Real Madrid captain Zinedine Zidane as international ambassador.
Not only is the tournament endorsed and supported by great ambassadors, the level of football is also very high and many players go on to have successful professional careers. Previous participants include Manchester United and England centre back Phil Jones, QPR winger Junior Hoilett, recent Tottenham signing Erik Lamela and Aston Villa’s Andreas Weimann who played in the Danone Nations Cup in Austria.