The FIFA U-20 World Cup has come to an end for another year, finishing up with an almighty showoff between Ukraine and the Korea Republic. The 22nd edition of the U-20s World Cup saw the world’s youth teams come together to battle it out for the trophy in the biennial championship, but it was Ukraine that came out on top this time around for the first time in the team’s run in the U20s World Cup.
Poland proved to be a worthy host for this year’s championship, catering for increased sports betting, an influx of tourists and, of course, the number of games with six pitches ready to go at once, but it was the final in Lonz that truly captured the attention of thousands.
Ukraine prove worthy at the Fifa U-20 World Cup
Despite falling behind after an early penalty by South Korea, Ukraine came all guns blazing to secure three goals and a 3-1 win on June 15th. The early lead saw Lee Kang-in of the South Korean secure a goal via a fifth-minute penalty, following a VAR review of a potential foul by Kim Se-Yun. However, the team seemed to fall short for the rest of the match, with Ukraine levelling the playing field at the 34th minute with an impressive goal by Supriaha just after Korea failed to secure a free kick.
On the eighth minute of the second half, Kim Hyun-Woo pulled what many consider to be a rookie error – he played the ball right into the path of Supriaha, who yet again secured another goal. Now a point up, Korea had some work to do, but despite a near-goal, they never caught up.
Ukraine secured their third goal, rubbing salt in Korea Republic’s wounds when they scored just a minute from full time when Heorhiy Tsitaishvili travelled over half of the field, finishing with a score right at the far corner.
Despite having a number of standout players, Ukraine went on to deny any individual acclaim, claiming that the team worked as precisely that – a team. However, the likes of Andriy Lunin, Serhii Buletsa, Yukhym Konoplia, Danylo Sikan and Vladyslav Supriaha certainly proved themselves as worthy candidates for the senior teams in the coming months and years.
Head Coach, Oleksandr Petravok, stated, “I am so happy. I don’t know what to say. Maybe I still have not fully realised what we achieved. It was the most important game in my life. I already got a call from the Ukraine president, who congratulated us. I have been working with these boys for five years, and I am proud. It will be very tough to say goodbye to them.”
A worthy speech, for an emotional and much-deserved win.
As with any championship, there were some much-deserved accolades that needed to be awarded, and this year, the three talented players came from South Korea, Ukraine and Norway. Despite most teams shining as a combined unit, there were a number of players that stood out amongst the rest, offering exceptional play and outstanding results.
The Golden Ball award went to Lee Kangin, who showcased his composure, talent and skill throughout the competition. Despite being just 18 years old and the youngest player on the Korea Republic team, he showed true prowess when it came to playing decisive passes and head-turning assists. Having only been a member of the team since March this year, he’s already showing promise as a player to be watched in the coming years, with the highest number of assists and two goals, one in the semi-final, and one in the final.
The Silver Ball trophy went to Serhii Buletsa from Ukraine, who earned recognition for his smooth passing style, precise play and his ability to rack up goals for the team, while the Bronze went to Gonzalo Plata from Ecuador. He was awarded this medal for his pace, determination and his technique that turned heads and left quite the impression throughout the championship in Poland.
The Golden Boot award went to Erling Haland from Norway, who earned 9 goals in a single game! When Norway annihilated Honduras 12-0, he took claim to nine of them, earning him the much sought-after award and a third-place position in the overall all-time top scorers hall of fame for U20s. The silver award went to Danylo Sikan, who earner 4 goals over 6 games, while Amadou Sagna from Senegal earned the Bronze for 4 goals across 4 games.
The Golden Glove Award went to Andriy Lunin from Ukraine, who earned his recognition thanks to his precise and organised defence. His saves are impressive, so much so that the senior Ukraine team often call him up for the European games which saw him miss out on a few of the U-20s Championship matches this year.
Japan were the winners of this year’s Fair Play Award, only receiving 7 yellow cards across their four games, with less than 16 fouls per match. They were deserving winners of the trophy, but also took home $10,000 to put towards football equipment for the youth teams.
This year’s Fifa U-20 World Cup may have come to an end, but unlike the senior games, the next one is only two years away. With the qualifying matches soon to begin, we won’t have long until we can fix our eyes on the top talent coming up through the youth rankings again.
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