Rahul Warrier gives us his Team of the recently concluded U20 World Cup in South Korea featuring the likes of Riccardo Orsolini and Dominic Solanke.
Santiago Mele | Uruguay | Fenix | 19 | Goalkeeeper:
With a save percentage of 88%, Santiago Mele was one of a number of impressive custodians in the tournament. His reflexes made him difficult to beat; indeed, Uruguay conceded just three goals all tournament, for which part of the credit must be attributed to Mele. He was superb and especially shone in the penalty shootout vs Portugal where he saved three penalties. 22 saves from 720 minutes make him the keeper of this team over Italy’s Zaccagno, England’s Woodman and Venezuela’s Farinez.
Jonjoe Kenny | England | Everton | 20 | Right Back:
One of a number of Evertonians in the English contingent, it was Kenny who proved to be as importance in defence as Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack. The tournament had plenty of impressive right-backs but it was Kenny who emerged as one of the best, if not the best, providing solidity and attacking impetus on the right flank, as seen with his two assists. Full-backs are expected to be solid in defence while contributing in attack: both boxes are ticked by Kenny. He looks ready to be given a shot with Everton in the coming season despite competition from fellow youngster Mason Holgate but on the basis of his showings in Korea should be able to hold his own in the Premier League.
Agustin Rogel | Uruguay | Nacional | 19 | Centre Back:
Rogel is the latest of the conveyor belt of strong, dominant Urugayan centre-backs that include Godin, Gimenez and Lemos. In a similar style, Rogel showed plenty of passion in his play, proving his commitment to the cause and his no-nonsense attitude. A tough tackler, Rogel brought an element of physicality to his play that made him one of the best defenders in the tournament. An insistent marker, he has a good eye for the game, one that will hold him in good stead for the future. He was also dominant in the air. A solid career awaits him.
Williams Velasquez | Venezuela | Caracas | 20 | Centre Back:
The Pozzos seem to have signed the impressive centre-back after a string of dominant performances in the tournament. Velasquez looks set to join Penaranda, and it’s no wonder why: his quality at the back shone throughout the course of the World Cup. Strong in the air, he possesses a yard of pace that allows him to be quick on the ground, qualities that established him as a rock in defence. His performances will have seen himself pushing for a national team call-up, and if his name is unknown now, a solid season in Italy will see quality teams pushing for his signature. His European move (likely to Udinese) is set to be the start of good things for the consistent defender.
Yuri Ribeiro | Portugal | Benfica B | 20 | Left Back:
This was a tournament where impressive right-backs were found in plenty, but left-backs were relatively tougher to find. In that respect Yuri Ribeiro was one of the best of the lot- he was a mainstay through Portugal’s tournament and provided a link between defense and attack. He went up and down the left-flank, providing impetus and creating space for his teammates. His conceding of a penalty vs Uruguay should not detract from a solid tournament for the Benfica graduate.
Riccardo Orsolini | Italy | Juventus | 20 | Right Wing:
The Juve-owned winger came into the tournament with plenty of expectations on his shoulders and did not disappoint with five goals, ending up as the Golden Boot winner. He shot into the limelight earlier this season after some impressive skills in a Serie B game, and continued to demonstrate his wide array of skills on the right-wing. Juventus will be thrilled to have signed him up from Ascoli in January on the basis of his performances. Possessing the ability to find spaces in defences, he has a sharp eye for goal, and on the basis of his goal against England, a lethal left foot. Orsolini is set to have a bright career on the right wing.
Yangel Herrera | Venezuela | New York City/Manchester City | 19 | Central Midfield:
Bronze Ball winner, Captain Herrera led from the front as Venezuela impressed on their way to the final. One of numerous Venezuelans to have caught the eye, Herrera was the heartbeat of their midfield, putting in complete performances in every game. His partnership with Ronaldo Lucena was vital in his country’s run to the final. Classy and aggressive, Herrera provided the link between defense and attack, while also providing an aerial presence and a goal-scoring threat. His energy helped him to press and harry opponent up the pitch. He looks to be an excellent midfield prospect for the future and will look to continue his progress in the remaining six months of his loan in New York. Guardiola will be impressed.
Lewis Cook | England | Bournemouth | 20 | Central Midfield:
Captain of the champions, Lewis Cook acted as the deep-lying playmaker in England’s set-up, and given his qualities as a midfielder, it was the perfect role for him. Assured and confident, he was the leader his side needed to take control of the midfield, while he led by example in using possession wisely and combative when he did not have the ball. He was able to open up every defence with his vision and passing, while he also contributed as a defensive player. His efforts allowed his attacking teammates in Lookman and Solanke to flourish, and for that Cook’s efforts must not be forgotten. A true leader in every aspect of play, Cook will be hoping to establish himself in Bournemouth’s midfield in the coming season despite a disappointing debut season for the Cherries.
Federico Valverde | Uruguay | Real Madrid Castilla | 18 | Central Midfield:
Valverde broke through at Penarol at the age of 17, earning a move to Real Madrid (via Castilla) due to his immense up-side. The winner of the Silver Ball, Valverde put in several all-action displays in central midfield, keeping his side ticking and facilitating attacking play. Only 18, he displayed his composure when hitting home a penalty vs Portugal, while also commanding the defence in front of him, demonstrating his confidence. Given that he is at Madrid, his development looks set to continue at an accelerated pace, and it will not be before long that Valverde displays his skills on a bigger platform. His potential is limitless.
Adalberto Penaranda | Venezuela | Watford | 19 | Left Wing:
The playmaker and posterboy of a talented crop of Venezuelan youngsters, Penaranda is the real deal: versatile in the attacking third, combining physicality and technique to direct his side’s attacking play. His qualities help to push his side when they attack; his technique is equally impressive- he bamboozled many a defender with his skill. He finds himself entangled in the Pozzo triangle however, owned by Watford but loaned to Granada, Udinese and lastly Malaga, resulting in a wasted year for him. The Pozzos will have to find a way to harness Penaranda’s immense talent in order to reap full dividends. He certainly has it in him to lead Venezuela to great heights in the coming years.
Dominic Solanke | England | Liverpool | 19 | Striker:
Despite sitting on the sidelines of Chelsea following a wage dispute for the past season, Dominic Solanke turned up the ante when required, demonstrating his talent on a wider platform and showing a glimpse behind why there was hype around him. Leading the line for the eventual champions, Solanke was the perfect No.9, finishing his chances with four goals from seven matches, while bursting through defences and holding up the ball in order to link with his teammates. He joins elite company with the Golden Ball award, and after a move to Liverpool, will be hoping to build on his performances in order to truly break through next season.
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