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England wins the FIFA U-20 World Cup

Despite 1-0 victory over Venezuela, many cheered for the losers
June 13,2017
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The English U-20 national football team celebrates after winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time at Suwon World Cup Stadium on Sunday. [YONHAP]
England’s young lions defeated Venezuela 1-0 at Suwon World Cup Stadium to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time in history on Sunday.

Once the game-ending whistle blew, 30,000 fans at Suwon World Cup Stadium gasped and, since Venezuela’s success was the biggest upset in the FIFA U-20 World Cup this year and because Venezuela was much weaker than England, the crowd cheered more for Venezuela. They clapped after Wuilker Farinez, the goalkeeper, took a shot rather than protecting the net in a last minute attempt to tie the game, but there was a clear gap in the two team’s skill levels.

England’s striker, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, scored the only goal of the match in the 35th minute, which eventually led to a winning goal. Since the English national football team won the 1966 FIFA World Cup, hosted at home, this was the first time in 51 years for them to win a FIFA event.

“I can’t express in words what I’m feeling now,” Calvert-Lewin said after the celebration, as quoted on FIFA.com. “I mean, to win a World Cup, not many people can do it. The team’s winning mentality has carried us through. We believed in ourselves.”

Though England is known as the country where football was first developed, they were always far from winning international events. This was the first time England got to the final round at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Their best showing before winning the event on Sunday was third place at the 1993 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Australia.

With England’s victory, the competition for all-time winning records between the European countries and South American countries has become fiercer. Of a total of 21 Championship matches between Europe and South America, Europe won a total of nine times and South America won a total of 11. Ghana was the only country to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup, in 2009, that was neither a part of Europe or South America.

The English victory showed the need for a structured development program for young football players in Korea, who got eliminated in the round of 16. All 21 members on the English national team were a part of European youth clubs. They’ve competed in each age division since they were little and made their way up in the clubs. Nine of the 21 players had experience playing in more than ten Premier League matches.

But looking at the Korean U-20 national football team, more than half the players were college athletes. Since they were either freshmen or sophomores, they lacked playing experience. Also, players in the K-League clubs were mostly bench members. Han Chan-hee of the Jeonnam Dragons was a starting player in his club, but due to a thigh injury prior to the World Cup, he failed to meet expectations.

“In Korean football, younger players are given limited opportunities to play,” said Kim Ho, general manager of Yongin Football Center. “Our system has to change to be more like the European football program for middle to long-term development. It is a dangerous sign for the U-19 Korean national football team to be eliminated in the group matches at the Asian Championship two consecutive times.”

Prior to the championship match, the third and fourth place match between Uruguay and Italy was played at Suwon World Cup Stadium. The match ended after a penalty shoot-out in which Italy defeated Uruguay 4-1.

The FIFA U-20 World Cup, hosted by Korea, had a total of 410,795 people attending 52 matches. On average, 7,899 people attended each match, slightly more than the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand and much more than the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey.

Aside from the four matches Korea played in, six matches had over 10,000 spectators. In Korea’s four matches, a total of 121,198 fans attended, 30 percent of the total.

BY SONG JI-HOON, KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]