Whenever a young English prospect arrives on the scene, they’re built up so much as a new hope for the national team. Someone that can help take England back to success, leading to heightened expectations. Inevitably, this means the chances of disappointment are higher and the case with recent England teams is that they crumble.
Yet, this Under-20 squad are aiming to defy critics and bring some respect back to English football. A first world title in 51 years can be won if England beat Venezuela in Sunday’s final in South Korea. Paul Simpson is the man behind this extraordinary run, his managerial experience roots back to spells with Carlisle, Preston and Northwich Victoria to name a few. Only taking over in February, Simpson’s side play an attractive, attacking style of football that allows star men Dominic Solanke, Ademola Lookman and Lewis Cook to flourish.
Unbeaten in the World Cup so far, they overcame tough opposition in Italy to reach this weekend’s final. Going behind after three minutes, it was a fighting response which duly resulted in a 3-1 win with a brace from Solanke. The new Liverpool man has been allowed to express himself and the team are benefiting. Since his club future was sorted, the 19-year-old has four goals in six games. The exciting front-line of him, Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has shone throughout. Captain Lewis Cook has dictated from deep alongside Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles, striking a good balance as a pair.
The determination to impress their club bosses has taken them further than imagined and now with glory so close, can they deliver when they need to most? The infamous young groups from Spain and Germany won titles at youth level before heading to senior triumph in the World Cups in 2010 and 2014. An England win this weekend could really spur on the first team to follow suit and give a performance the country deserves and is probably overdue.
Defeat to Iceland last summer topped the nightmares of 2010, 2006 and even not qualifying for Euro 2008. It was shambles from start to finish, when Harry Kane took his first corner or when Raheem Sterling kept his place ahead of Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford. Our national team has needed a shake-up for years and new management has had some effect, even if Gareth Southgate doesn’t appeal to everyone. His experience with the U21 means he knows a lot of players very well and is building a core group that he had back then, in the senior set-up. Jesse Lingard, Nathan Redmond, Jack Butland, Eric Dier and Kane will be key players for years to come and make the U21s that moved up with their manager.
The same applies with this U20 squad. If they are to become world champions, it’s important for the future that they are kept together, keep playing as a unit and for tournaments ahead a structure and tried and tested system is there. England have been missing an identity for years, do we play tika-taka, do we press high and counter attack or shall we play long ball with Andy Carroll?
Whatever Simpson has done for the U20s that has them on the brink of the world cup, we need to take and build into every England side. Before we know it, a world cup at the highest level could be heading back to Wembley too.
Bring the trophy home boys!
Featured image curtesy of The FA via Google