Under-17 World Cup: Chalobah Leads England Into Last Sixteen

Never let it be said that there’s no football in the summer months.

Whilst the western club football calendar takes its traditional break, there has nonetheless been regular action from all corners of the world, perhaps most notably in Mexico, where a quartet of Chelsea players have been representing their countries at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

Chief amongst those is Nathaniel Chalobah, the sixteen year-old defender who has successfully captained England into top spot in Group C and a Quarter Final tie against Argentina.

Playing every minute of the three matches against Rwanda, Canada and Uruguay, often in stifling heat, the centre back has been in good form, and continued his impressive goalscoring statistics with the opener against the Uruguayans in Saturday’s group finale.

Against arguably weaker opposition in his first two outings, Chalobah was rarely stretched or questioned, but disjointed performances from the Three Lions meant they ended up being the more challenging affairs, as Uruguay melted in scorching Torreon conditions.

The Blues boy – who officially becomes a first-year scholar this summer despite having had a full season at reserve level – rose above all others to thump in an unmarked header to put his team on their way to a 2-0 win sealed by a second half strike from Crewe’s Max Clayton.

You can watch his goal HERE.

For the other Chelsea-affiliated youngsters in the competition, it’s been a mixed bag. Brazilian forward Lucas Piazon – who will arrive on English shores in early 2012 having agreed a big-money move from São Paulo late last season – has played from the start in both of the Seleção’s wins against Denmark and Australia, and whilst his form hasn’t been sparkling, he has for the most part played a mature and confident game.

He concludes his group stage this evening against the Ivory Coast and will be involved in the competition’s second week along with Chalobah.

For Nathan Aké and Dominik Mašek, however, things haven’t gone as well. Aké’s Netherlands side have struggled to replicate their European Championship winning form, picking up just one point against North Korea and falling to defeats against Congo and hosts Mexico.

The former Feyenoord defender, who will join up with his new academy teammates in July, came off the bench in all three matches, but with the Dutch struggling to compete, it will be a competition they will quickly want to forget.

Mašek, meanwhile, was confirmed by FIFA.com commentators as joining Chelsea upon turning sixteen next month after rumours of a move grew in recent times.

The left-footed forward, who made his professional debut for FK Pribram late last season, started the competition against the United States but was withdrawn after an hour and remained unused on the bench for the remainder of the Czech Republic’s tournament.

A win against New Zealand offered hope of qualification but a surprising defeat to Uzbekistan ensured swift elimination, and Mašek will join Aké in arriving in England in the coming weeks.

A potential fifth club represensative, Burkinabe winger Bertrand Traoré, was precluded from playing in the competition due to an obscure FIFA rule.

The winger was part of his country’s squad in the 2009 Finals and regulations state that a player may not feature in more than one FIFA Under-17 or Under-20 World Cup. Thus, despite being key to their African Championship winning side to secure their place in Mexico, he was unable to take part.

News and views on how Chalobah and Lucas Piazon fare in the knockout stages will be on TheChels.net in due course, and live throughout the competition on Twitter by following @chelseayouth.