England are Under-20 world champions
England won their first world youth title, overcoming Venezuela 1-0 in the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea.
In his country’s first appearance in the Final of a global tournament since the 1966 World Cup, Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s firsthalf goal was enough for victory after Newcastle United goalkeeper Freddie Woodman saved a second-half penalty.
“This is the reward for some incredible work, some incredible sacrifices, and I do not think you can get a better feeling than what that felt like at the end of the game when the referee blew that whistle,” said England’s manager Paul Simpson, the former Shrewsbury Town and Stockport County boss. “We are world champions and we have waited 51 years to be able to say that again as an England team. It is an incredible feeling and I do not think it will ever go away if I am honest with you.”
Simpson, who took charge of the under-20s in March following Aidy Boothroyd’s promotion to under-21 manager, said he had called on the players to be ambitious in their plans for the tournament. “I asked them the question, ‘What do you think you can achieve?’ and they told me they thought they could win a World Cup,” he said. “We said if we want to win a World Cup we have to be absolutely committed from that moment on and they have been.”
Several members of the squad are contracted to Premier League clubs, including CalvertLewin, who started the season with Sheffield
United in League One, his Everton team-mate Ademola Lookman, and Dominic Solanke, who recently switched from Chelsea to Liverpool.
But it remains to be seen how many of the victorious team will become regulars in the Premier League. “I hope it has a positive impact on English football,” Simpson said.
“I don’t really know what is going to come but it is part of the development that we are trying to create football players who are capable of being successful at senior tournaments and hopefully this will go a long way to achieving that. I honestly don’t know what it means for English football. But for the under-20s it means everything. This is what we have worked so hard for.”
Calvert-Lewin scored the only goal of the game in the 35th minute.
The 20-year-old met a free-kick from Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook and found space behind his marker before slotting home with his left foot following a rebound off the keeper.
With 17 minutes remaining, Woodman denied Adalberto Penaranda from the spot after the forward was fouled by Kyle Walker-Peters.
Solanke, who spent the 2015-16 season on loan at Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem, was awarded the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.
England begun the tournament in style, beating Argentina 3-0 in their opening group game to record their first win at a world under-20 finals for 20 years and ending a tournament record of 17 games without a win.
Victories over Costa Rica, Mexico and Italy in the knockout phase set up the showdown against Venezuela.
The Venezuelans reached the Final after beating tournament favourites Uruguay on penalties but they needed an injury-time equaliser to take the semi-final into extra time.
Victorious... England’s under-20s
Heroic...Freddie Woodman’s penalty save in the Final