World Cup joy for England Under-20s
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Venezuela 0 England 1
Tottenham duo Josh Onomah and Kyle Walker-Peters, along with Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles, helped England win the under-20 World Cup with a slender victory over Venezuela in Korea.
Paul Simpson’s Young Lions were the first England side to reach a world showpiece for over half a century and followed in the footsteps of Sir Alf Ramsey’s senior players, who lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the only goal on 35 minutes, while Newcastle goalkeeper Freddie Woodman saved a second-half penalty to preserve the lead and ensure England would become world champions.
And Simpson hopes his side’s triumph can act as a stepping stone to success for the senior team, telling Sky Sports News: “What a weekend it’s been for our national teams with the other Under-20 side winning the Toulon Tournament and now we have capped it off with winning the World Cup.
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“We’ve got some wonderful players and a wonderful support staff. We’ve got some real top-quality coaches back at home who have supported us all the way, as have the teams below us and the senior team above us too. There’s a real unity about the England set-up.
“It’s a dream come true, and that doesn’t even sound like a strong enough statement to express how big an achievement this is for everyone concerned.
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“Hopefully we can use this as a stepping stone as ultimately the goal is to be successful at senior level and this has been a terrific experience for these players to help develop them for senior football.”
England survived a few scares en route to their victory in the final as Ronaldo Lucena’s swerving, dipping free-kick from all of 40 yards clipped the outside of a post and Adalberto Penaranda saw his penalty brilliantly saved by Woodman.
But Tottenham’s Onomah, 20, saw a 30-yard effort strike the crossbar and bounce down on the line during the second half and proved solid in a deeper midfield role for England during the competition, despite often appearing for Spurs in a more advanced role in cameos under boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Walker-Peters, also 20, is highly regarded at Spurs, where he signed a new three-year contract in February and was outstanding in the semi-final win against Italy when asked to play at left-back, rather than in his more familiar position on the right side of the defence.
Midfielder Maitland-Niles, 19, was introduced from the bench after 71 minutes, having made his debut for Arsenal at the age of 17 in a Champions League clash with Galatasaray.
The Goodmayes-born teenager and former Oaks Park pupil had a loan spell at Ipswich in 2015 but his progression at the Emirates has stalled somewhat, although he did play in the earlier rounds of the FA Cup this past season.
England had beaten Argentina (3-0) and South Korea (1-0) in their group, while being held to a 1-1 draw by Guinea, then saw off Costa Rica (2-1), Mexico (1-0) and Italy (3-1) en route to the final.
And Simpson was pleased with how his players dug in and held on, adding: “That was one tough evening for us but what a feeling when that whistle went, all that hard work all coming together at the end. It was wonderful for us all.
“The second half was a real grind for us. The players have defended for their lives out there and have shown an unbelievable spirit to keep that clean sheet. It was an unbelievable save from Freddie Woodman from the penalty.
“I think that over the whole of the tournament we have shown that we are the best side. Maybe not on the night in the final but tonight was just about finding a way to win that game and the players have done it and I’m absolutely delighted for every single one of the players, every single one of the staff.”
England: Woodman (Newcastle), Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), Tomori (Chelsea), Walker-Peters (Tottenham), Kenny (Everton), Cook (Bournemouth), Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Onomah (Tottenham), Solanke (Chelsea, joining Liverpool on 1 July), Lookman (Everton), Dowell (Everton). Subs: Henderson (Manchester United), Southwood (Reading), Connolly (Everton), Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), Armstrong (Newcastle), Konsa (Charlton), Fry (Middlesbrough), Chapman (Middlesbrough), Ojo (Liverpool), Ejaria (Liverpool).