Trong Nhan Doan writes about the 5 best players at the recently concluded U20 World Cup in South Korea.
After three weeks and 52 matches, we have reached the conclusion of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
England deservedly took the title crown, while Venezuela showed their potential. Both sides received long-term investment from their respective federations, and we are expecting more of the same from this generation.
Elsewhere, favorite France ended the campaign with a 1-2 loss in the Round of 16 against Italy, who finished third. The team wasn’t underperforming though the omission of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, but should blame missed chances. The dark horse Zambia was one minute away from making the semi-final, while Argentina and Germany left South Korea in disapointment.
It has been a tough decision to select the five best players of the tournament, but nevertheless, we bring you the players who made the cut.
The caption of the champion showed why he deserved the armband in the first place. Playing as a deep lying playmaker in a 4-4-1-1 flat shape, Cook controlled the midfield in a system which can easily be outnumbered in modern football.
He ended the tournament with a goal and two assists, but his contribution was more than the numbers suggested. His vision and passing helped dictating the tempo and breaking down the opponent’s press, and he isn’t shy from playing the killer ball from deep.
Also, we shouldn’t neglect his defensive contribution. Cook was excellent in reading the play and willing to take-on the opposing attacking players. It was showcased in the victory against Mexico, when Young Lions were down to ten men after Josh Onomah’s sending-off. Mexico was never a threat in the midfield thanks to Cook’s ability to make key interceptions and playing through balls to outset counter-attacking chances.
While Dominic Solanke received the Golden Ball award, it was the unsung hero Lookman who edged his teammate to make this list.
The left-winger terrorized the defenders thanks to not only his pace and quick-feet, but also his decision-making and offensive IQ. Lookman was excellent in timing his movement inside the box and playing through balls to the half-space, making him more difficult to close down. His willingness to track back also helped the defensive phase.
A pass-first winger who broke into Everton’s first team the past season, it is interesting to see how he develops the next year.
Similar to Cook, Herrera was the engine of the Venezuela’s midfield. However, compared to his opponent in the final, he stamped more authority in the midfield.
Often playing deepest in the free-flow attacking Venezuela, Herrera was asked to regain and rotate possession, a role similar to N’golo Kante. He excelled in this role thanks to his incredible workrate, helping Venezuela reaching the final without conceding any open-play goals in 90 minutes. Furthermore, he demonstrated his ability to lead the attacking phase, willing to pump and switch the ball to the half-spaces and make late runs to the 18-yard box
It is a debate whether Cook and Herrera should be given the individual award of the tournament. Considering the role and the system the latter was playing, I think Herrera more deservedly earned the Bronze Ball. Manchester City bought Herrera last summer, and Pep Guardiola might take a look at this youngster given how thin the City’s squad is.
Head coach Alberigo Evani employed a front three of Riccardo Orsolini, Giuseppe Panico and Andrea Favilli, which was key to Italy’s unlikely run to earn bronze medal.
Evani instructed Favilli to drop to the half-spaces, while Orsolini and Panico often drift to the box waiting for a lay-off. Orsolini’s eye for goals and lethal left-foot finishing helped him lead the tournament in goals, scoring five goals in seven games.
Orsolini could have showcased his talent some more if Evani hadn’t been so conservative in his approach, but his prolific performances earned him the title of the best player on the Italian side from many in the media.
Playing in the similar position to Lookman’s, Penaranda is the playmaker rather than an inside forward. He bullied the defenders with his excellent individual skills and his aggression to play killer balls and make runs in behind whenever possible.
Against Germany, Penaranda’s solo run created the space for Cordova, for whom he provided a perfect through ball. His pace and timed penetration broke the deadlock against USA. He won the penalty in the 73rd minute in the final thanks to another smart blind run, which could have tied the game.
The Pozzos signed Penaranda to Watford last year thanks to their trademark extensive scouting network. It will interesting to see how they assign the prospect in the upcoming years, having spent time on loan to Pozzo’s feeder clubs, Granada and Udinese.