Kaustubh Pandey has a look at the players that stood out during the U-20 World Cup final that finished England 1-0 Venezuela.
In what was a game that lived up to the tag of being a World Cup final, the English Under-20s outfit picked up a thrilling 1-0 win over the Venezuela Under-20s side to claim the Under-20 FIFA World Cup to win their first ever international title in 51 years.
The win comes after the Young Three Lions had ousted Italy from the tournament in the semi-finals, coming back from a goal down to score three goals in the second half. The weight of expectations was certainly there, but there was no real favorite as Rafael Dudamel’s Venezuela had enjoyed an equally formidable tournament, shocking many.
Everton starlet Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the opener for England in the 35th minute, as the Venezuelans decided to keep a very high line to defend a Lewis Cook free-kick. Calvert-Lewin broke through the line and scored with a rebound after the first effort was saved well by Wuilker Faríñez.
Venezuela grew into the game in the second-half and the introduction of Yefferson Soteldo added pace and energy to the side. England looked vulnerable, but a terrific penalty save by Freddie Woodman off Adalberto Penaranda kept the scoreline at 1-0 late in the game. Venezuela kept pushing forward with purpose and pace, but Paul Simpson’s Three Lions held on to help the nation win a World Cup for the first time since the triumph of 1966.
And here’s how the standout players in the game fared at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.
The Manchester City man, who spent one half of the previous campaign on loan at MLS side New York City FC, was probably Venezuela’s best player on the pitch. The 19-year-old skippered the side to the final and was leading the team out once again, but could not lead the side to a historic triumph.
The midfield starlet played in the 4-4-2, partnering Ronaldo Lucena in the heart of the park. Herrera took up the more attacking role, helping the likes of Penaranda, Ronaldo Pena and Ronaldo Chacon. He used his body very well to break up in the heart of the park, often shielding the back four and Lucena himself.
Not just his body, but Herrera also used his energy to good effect, allowing his side to launch counter-attacks and win a lot of midfield battles, especially in the first forty five minutes of the game. While, his contributions were less in the defensive area, Herrera’s pressing up the pitch and his ability to start off play from areas close to goal stood out.
And Pep Guardiola would be proud of the performance that the former Atletico Venezuela man came up with.
The Tottenham Hotspur man, who isn’t really a regular under Mauricio Pochettino but is likely to climb up the pecking order, came up with a promising showing for Simpson’s men in white. His inclusion wasn’t really a surprise, considering how he has played ahead of Maitland-Niles in the heart of the park, partnering Lewis Cook there. And the 20-year-old proved why he’s played more often than the Arsenal midfielder.
Cook was handed the more defensive role in this game, as the Bournemouth player stayed back at all times, allowing Onomah the freedom to do the attacking work. Onomah excelled in that role and dominated the game, often leaving Herrera to run behind him. His runs from the midfield carved open the Venezuelan defense multiple times throughout the game and his directness was always a threat.
There were instances when he seemed to get overrun by the opposition midfield, but he did well to come out with flying colors, showing off a bundle of tricks here and there as well. The role that he donned is a bit unlike the one he is usually handed at Tottenham and while, he was deployed a bit deeper than usual Cook’s presence made it easy for him to add flair to attack.
And his tendency to take players on, beat them and create things played a vital role in England’s win.
The dynamic winger played the role that Sheyi Ojo played for England in the semi-final against Italy. The Liverpool man had a more tangible impact on the game and while Soteldo played just as well on Sunday, he couldn’t provide the final spark to hand his side the vital equalizer.
Having come on four minutes into the second half, Soteldo replaced the disappointing Ronaldo Chacon, who had endured a frustrating first forty five. The 19-year-old, who currently plies his trade with Chilean football club Huachipato, came on to play on the left, came close to changing the complexion of the game completely. He brought in extra energy and verve to a side that was in desperate need for a fresh approach to attack, with Penaranda enduring a disappointing afternoon.
His close-control and ability to run with the ball caused England a lot of problems. He did start off centrally, but later drifted off to the right flank. He gave England’s Tottenham man Kyle Walker-Peters a torrid time till the time he was handed the space to drift in and Venezuela hadn’t gone direct. There was an instance when he did go past Walker-Peters near the edge of the box to play a pass to someone around the area, but the shot was blocked well by Fikayo Tomori.
He managed to setup Sergio Cordova on his first touch, but the Caracas FC star took too much time to get the shot away, allowing Freddie Woodman to latch onto it. If only the team had done a bit better, Soteldo would have been happier man that he will be now.
The sole goalscorer of the game, Dom Calvert-Lewin came up with what could possibly prove to be the best performance of his career as yet. The Everton starlet had endured a difficult semi-final against Italy, but proved doubters wrong with an astounding showing in Suwon.
There wasn’t a single moment when it felt like the Sheffield-born striker wasn’t running around the pitch like a dog. His work-rate stood out and when England needed someone to drop deep and do the dirty work to defend the one-goal advantage, he was ready to put in the effort. He threatened the Venezuelan defense on the break after the first half and supported Solanke in playing on the counter in the second forty-five.
The goal that he scored was certainly down to Venezuela’s decision to keep a very high-line to defend Lewis Cook’s free-kick, but Calvert-Lewin’s hunger to get in front of the defender helped him score. He showed immense strength and aerial ability to score and a cool rebound followed.
Throughout the game, he held off defenders to perfection and used his body unerringly to shield the ball and hold it up. Solanke was sometimes the furthest man forward, but both of them worked on each of the centre-halves and Calvert-Lewin showed surprising strength and aerial ability to earn the tag of being a player of the match.
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