Dominic Solanke was poised to win the tournament’s golden ball, and while he did win it but with one goal short off the golden boot, a first-half strike from Dominic Calvert-Lewin has proved to be enough for the England Under-20s to win the Under-20 World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Venezuela Under-20s.
The goal from the Everton attacker came in the 35th minute but Paul Simpson‘s men were indebted to goalkeeper Freddie Woodman, who saved a penalty from Adalberto Penaranda with 17 minutes left.
It marks a tremendous achievement for England, who had not won a match at this tournament for two decades and had defeated Argentina, Mexico and Italy on the way to Sunday’s final.
The Three Lions started the game well but it took until 10 minutes for the first opportunity to be created with Dominic Solanke scuffing a shot straight at goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
Slowly but surely, Venezuela eased their way into the contest with Ronaldo Pena shooting over from distance, but England began to assert themselves midway through the first half with Ademola Lookman seeing a venomous strike well saved by Farinez.
From the resulting corner, Calvert-Lewin volleyed over at the back post as England pressed for an opener, but they were reminded that they could not get too comfortable when Ronaldo Lucena struck the post with an outrageous free kick from around 45 yards out.
However, 10 minutes before half time, England got their goal through Calvert-Lewin who, after initially seeing a shot from 14 yards saved by Farinez, slotted the ball under the goalkeeper from close range to leave England fans dreaming of glory.
He was denied a second when Farinez came out well to smother his effort, and Venezuela almost equalised just before half time when Penaranda – who is contracted to Watford – curled a free kick inches wide of Woodman’s post.
Moments after the restart, Venezuela introduced Yeferson Soteldo and the playmaker changed the game, with the substitute taking less than a minute to set up Sergio Cordova, who saw a saw smothered by Woodman.
Soon afterwards, Yangel Herrera had a header saved by the Newcastle United stopper before out of nowhere, Joshua Onomah rattled the underside of the crossbar for England from 25 yards out, only to see the ball hit the line and bounce out.
After the hour mark, Lookman whipped a free kick over the crossbar from 20 yards but with 17 minutes remaining, Venezuela were awarded a penalty when Jake Clarke-Salter was adjudged to have fouled Penaranda inside the area, which was confirmed with a video replay.
However, after the attacker got back to his feet, he saw his strike brilliantly saved by Woodman, who got something in the way despite nearly diving past the ball to his right.
Venezuela threw players forward during the closing stages of the game, but England looked equally threatening on the break and had their own chances to double their advantage.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Calvert-Lewin both tried to lob Farinez from the halfway line during added-on time but despite failing to pull off the most unlikeliest of efforts, England held on to end 51 years of hurt in the nation’s first appearance in a World Cup final since 1966.
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