Ki-Jana Hoever has helped guide his country to the cusp of the U17 World Cup final after a thunderous strike in the Netherlands’ quarter-final win.
Liverpool’s young defender is currently plying his trade in Brazil, featuring at both centre-back and right-back throughout the competition to date.
His Dutch side initially struggled to get going having succumbed to two successive defeats in their opening group games against Japan and Senegal.
A change in approach, however, in the final group game would see Hoever switch to the centre of defence with great effect as the Netherlands kept a clean sheet in a 4-0 win over USA, and with other results also falling their way they booked their place in the knockouts.
A return to the right flank in a 3-1 win over Nigeria followed in the last 16 to set up a meeting with Paraguay in the quarter-finals.
And while Liverpool’s senior full-backs were busy orchestrating the Reds’ win over Man City, Hoever was having a similar game-changing effect for his country on Sunday, having opened the scoring with an emphatic close-range finish.
The 17-year-old evaded an onrushing defender on his procession into the box to steer his side into the lead with 30 minutes on the clock:
It was an advantage Netherlands would build on as they found the net a further three times while Paraguay could manage just one, setting up a semi-final against Mexico on November 14.
However, after picking his second yellow card of the tournament in the latest win the Liverpool youngster is suspended for one game, and will not be able to feature in the next stage.
It is a bitter blow after his bright performances thus far, and while he will have to watch from the sidelines as his side bid to make the final, Hoever will return on the final matchday on November 17 in either the showpiece or the third-place playoff.
Having been a regular member of the Netherlands outfit who has experienced the pressure and both the highs and lows of tournament football will be an invaluable learning experience for Hoever, who will no doubt be eyeing a return to the squad with a major trophy on the line.
If he is triumphant in Gama on Sunday he will follow in the footsteps of Rhian Brewster, who picked up the Golden Boot on the way to England’s victory in the U17 World Cup in 2017.