England under-20s have reached their first ever World Cup final, coming from behind to beat Italy under-20s 3-1. A brace from new Liverpool signing Dominic Solanke helped England knock out the young Azzurri in South Korea.
England will now face Venezuela in the final on Sunday, after they triumphed over Uruguay U20 on penalties.
Italy off to a flyer
England were stunned by Albero Evangi’s men, who took the lead inside two minutes. Captain Lewis Cook gave away a free-kick for a handball in the middle of the park and Italy struck quickly.
Juventus midfielder Rolando Mandragora took a quick free-kick that found Andrea Favilli, who had made a superb run into the England penalty area. Favilli found on-loan Ascoli teammate, Riccardo Orsolini who buried the ball beyond Freddie Woodman from 12 yards out. 20-year-old Orsolini joined Juventus in January for a fee that could rise to €10m.
England dominate possession to no avail
Italy, much like the senior side, sat back prepared to strike and double their lead on the counter. England showed flashes but failed to achieve any serious penetration throughout the first half. The best chance for the Young Lions fell to Everton’s Kieran Dowell.
Ademola Lookman played a superb diagonal ball into the area tat found Everton teammate Dowell. Dowell made a good run into the area but hesitated before he flicking a boot at the ball that went agonisingly over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
The best chance of the half fell to forward Solanke, who had been starved of service for the majority of the first period. Tottenham's Kyle Walker-Peters crossed the ball and the Liverpool hitman got a flick on the ball as it agonisingly flashed past the post. Solanke then followed up, with a swerving strike a few moments later, forcing a solid parry from Italian stopper Andrea Zaccagno.
Italy went into the interval one up and England were looking devoid of ideas.
Simpson’s super sub
England came out of the half in the same manner they left the first and it felt all too familiar from England. Solanke tried to single-handedly carry England into the final.
The 19-year-old picked up the ball in his own half and dribbled into the Italian final third, fighting off four or five people in the process. The Chelsea academy product, who joins up with Liverpool at the start of July, then fizzed another rocket, this time from his left foot, just past the post.
Paul Simpson then called on Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo and the youngster almost made an immediate impact. The MK Dons product came on and with his first touch, fired a ball that forced a superb block from Mauro Coppolaro to win the corner.
Ojo continued his bright start by hitting the hit the post for England, the closest they came to an equaliser, at that point. Ojo’s chance came from one of the many orchestrated set-pieces by Simpson’s men. Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles played it to Ojo, who whipped his shot from 25 yards out and it nicked the post on its way wide.
Ojo was an inspired sub, his direct play causing Italy problems time and time again. The midfielder worked another open inside the Italian box and forced another stop from the Torino owned keeper.
England turn it around
England were piling the pressure on the Italians and Simpson’s men finally got the equaliser they deserved. There was a sense of inevitability about it when Jonjoe Kenny and Ojo linked up well on the right.
The super-sub, Ojo, put in a cross that Zaccagno didn’t deal with. The stopper parried the cross straight into Solanke’s path, who then coolly tucked away the rebound. That was Solanke’s third goal of the tournament and was deserved after his effort throughout the night.
England almost took the lead after Cook, Ojo, Kenny and Dominic Calvert-Lewin linked up to almost play in Solanke but the ball was smuggled back to Zaccagno.
At the heart of England’s second goal was Liverpool starlet, Ojo. The midfielder delivered a dangerous cross, that the Italian defence once again couldn’t deal with and the ball hit Lookman. Former Charlton Athletic product Lookman then fired the ball into the net to put England ahead.
England weren’t done as Solanke grabbed his second of the game in the closing stages. Solanke put the ball beyond the Italians with a superb strike, that bounced just in front of Zaccagno – who should have done better.
England will face Venezuela on the final on Saturday. Venezuela were four minutes from elimination against Uruguay, before Samuel Sosa hit a superb free-kick in added on time. Venezuela have already clocked 90 more minutes than the Three Lions, after going to extra time in all three of their knock-out matches.
This is only the second England team to ever reach a World Cup final at any age group, of course following in the footsteps of the senior team's iconic 4-2 win against West Germany in 1966.