Early Doors

Eight-year-olds from Essex beat Barcelona to international tournament glory

Early Doors

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England's current crop of football stars aren't being given much hope of glory in Brazil, but it seems that the nation's future hopes are in good hands.

Just a few weeks ago, England's U17 side won the European Championships, brushing aside the much-favoured Netherlands in the final.

And now a bunch of eight-year-old lads from Essex has turned the form book on its head once more as they beat Barcelona's junior side to win an international tournament in Spain.

Upminster Park Rovers under-8s cruised through all their groups stage matches and the semi-final, but were expected to earn no more than dignified defeat against the home side at the event.

But the Essex boys played their hearts out to earn an amazing 2-1 victory, upstaging the miniature Messis, Fabregases and Neymars of Barca to claim the silverware.

"The final was a really tough match, but, then again, we were a Sunday League team playing against a squad from one of the biggest clubs in the world," said the side's manager, Steve McMahon, who we're presuming is no relation to his Liverpool legend namesake.

"Our boys managed to score two goals quite quickly, and then held on until the end of the match.

"The last few minutes were pretty tense though as Barca scored and then looked set to equalise."

The Barcelona Football Festival pits the Catalan club's under-8, under-10 and under-11 sides against other teams from across Europe on home turf at the side's famous football academy.

And Barca's youngsters won every single match in all three divisions - apart from the under-8s final against Upminster.

Upminster's Flynn Hamilton also put the local players in the shade with his seven goals in five matches, while his team-mate Fletcher Hubbard was named player of the tournament.

No wonder, then, that Hamilton and Hubbard are among six players from the squad who have been snapped up by a big club closer to home: West Ham.

"I'm so proud of my team. They performed throughout with exemplary discipline, much better than players twice their age," added McMahon.

"We went to the tournament as a last hurrah, as several of the squad are moving on to higher age groups, but we were so pleased to come home with the trophy.

"To have such a fantastic squad of young lads gives England a lot of hope for future World Cups, I reckon.

"I knew how much it meant to the boys and how passionate they were about beating Barcelona.

"I was genuinely surprised by how we raised our game and added the English bulldog spirit of never giving up."

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