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U-17 World Cup: England top Group F, Iraq runners-up
Kolkata, Oct 14: England underlined their title credentials with a classy 4-0 victory over Iraq to top Group F in a FIFA U-17 World Cup tie here at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan on Saturday.
Manchester United's Angel Gomes — in his first start — opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Danny Loader notched up a second-half brace (59th, 71st), with Emile Smith-Rowe finding the target once in the 57th minute.
The Englishmen could have heaped more humiliation on the Iraqis, but their star forward Jadon Sancho's penalty was saved in the 23rd minute.
With an all win record in the tournament so far, England will now take Japan who finished second in Group E in the pre-quarterfinals at the same venue on Tuesday.
Iraq, meanwhile, finished second and will take on Mali on the same day in Goa.
For England, central defenders Marc Guehi and Joel Latibeaudiere along with wideman Jadon Sancho were the only three players who made the starting lineup from the last game as coach Steve Cooper ringed in as many as eight changes.
Iraq, on the other hand, rested their most influential player Mohammed Dawood, who only came on as a replacement in the second half.
England took the lead when Gomes initiated a move freeing Nya Kirby on the right. Daniel Loader failed to reach Kirbi's low cross, but Gomes followed up the action to slot home.
Emile Smith Rowe then came close to scoring but his angular shot missed the far post by a whisker.
Smith Rowe then earned a penalty after he was brought down by Mohammed Albaquer inside the box. But Iraq goalkeeper Ali Ibadi read it correctly and dived to his right to deny Sancho what could have been his fourth goal of the tournament.
Minutes later, Smith Rowe again found himself in the clear but this time also the Iraqi goalkeeper made a good save.
In the 32nd minute, Iraq got their first real chance. A wonderful move saw skipper Mohammed Ridha set up Ali Kareem who had only England goalkeeper William Crellin to beat, but Crellin effected a good save.
Ali Kareem again spurned an opportunity after Moamel Kareem did the spadework. This time he hit straight to a defender with goalkeeper Crellin woefully out of position.
England led by the solitary goal at halftime, but Iraq showed enough promise to bite back after the restart.
Coach Qahtan Chitheer unleashed Dawood three minutes into the second period and the in-form forward almost made the most of a goalkeeping lapse. After Moamel Kareem's initial effort was blocked, Dawood blasted over the rebound from close range.
Just when Iraq looked likely to peg back, England changed gears and snatched the game away from the Asian U-16 champions in the space of two minutes.
First, Smith Rowe atoned for his earlier misses with an exquisite flicked finish after playing a delightful one-two with Gomes.
Two minutes later, Loader rounded off Iraq keeper Ibadi to slot the ball home after the defenders were caught napping.
The Reading striker would have his second soon after, making the most of a Steven Sessegnon pass to ruffle the net.
Matters turned from bad to worse for Iraq as Dawood picked up a second booking which means he will miss the next gam