Match ball cradled in his arms, Rhian Brewster is the last player to climb into the England team bus on Saturday night. As he makes his way to his seat in the back, getting a few pats from appreciative teammates, he rushes out again. A couple of his family members are hanging around on the driveway of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda. A quick chat later and a few hugs later, Brewster returns to his teammates. He has made them wait, but he can get away with it. Right now he is the most feted member in this group of youngsters which already comprises the most talented U-17 football players in the England.
In the preceding hour, Brewster has been instrumental in creating history. Two strikes by the centre forward in the space of four minutes -- pouncing on a loose ball for the first in the 11th minute and delivering a composed finish to lift the ball over the goalkeeper for the second -- would put the game beyond USA inside fourteen minutes of their U-17 World Cup quarterfinal match. After an assist for a third goal, Brewster would get a hat-trick - the first for England in an U-17 World Cup match -- by converting a penalty in the final play of the match. England have beaten U.S. 4-1 and are in their first semi-final at this level. It is as comprehensive a performance as would have been possible for a striker.
Back in Liverpool there are already calls being made for his inclusion in the senior team. Having joined the club's academy as a 14-year old, he has been seen as one to watch out for in the future. He has already sat on the substitute bench for the Reds against Crystal Palace in April. In naming him, coach Jurgen Klopp had already singled him out as someone to watch out for. "Physically stronger, wonderfully skilled boy, real striker, good finisher, fantastic work ethic and all that stuff," Klopp had said then.
Brewster has showcased all of those qualities in this World Cup. Against the U.S., he combined almost instinctively with Phil Foden on the right flank. Each of his first two goals came from passes through the right flank from Foden, who has himself been marked for big things at Manchester City. While he benefitted from through balls making their way to him, Brewster also had an uncanny ability to make his way in front of the American full backs to get where he needed to be. Yet, Brewster isn't just a striker who knows how to poke shots into goal.
In England's second group game against Mexico, he opened the scoring with perhaps the free-kick of the tournament. And just to prove he could do more, Brewster went past three defenders on the right flank to make the assist that saw Jadon Sancho score the second.
Indeed, such is the depth of talent in this England squad that Brewster had to wait for Sancho to be called back by Dortmund ahead of the pre-quarterfinals before he could get a position in front of the goal. And while he was denied by a disciplined Japan defence in his last game, he made the opportunity count against U.S.
There will be more of this jostling for position as Brewster moves -- as he invariably will -- from the U-17 squad to the senior first team. Brewster understands the challenge he faces. "You don't really get many opportunities to play at the international level and you have to make the most of it. And it will be the same at the club level too. I have to make the most of my chances," he says.
While it might have afforded him a few extra minutes with his family, Brewster doesn't plan on resting on his laurels. "He has his head screwed on. He isn't over himself," says cousin Jamil after his chat with the youngster. Brewster himself is already looking forward to the next match. "This hat-trick is big for me but also the team. It proves that we are the side to beat in this tournament," he says.