It’s not every day that you can say England have won the World Cup. Indeed, it’s not every day that you can say England have accomplished anything worth talking about at any given World Cup. Their supporters can, however, briefly bask in hope as Liverpool young guns Dominic Solanke and Sheyi Ojo helped secure a 1-0 victory over Venezuela in the final of the FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea. Ovie Ejaria had earned a spot on the bench, but had to content himself with watching from the sidelines.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must also tell you that Everton’s Dominic - he of the Calvert-Lewin variety, not the Solanke variety - scored the sole and winning goal. But football is a team sport so he literally could not have done it without Solanke or Ojo. Newcastle’s Freddie Woodman also had a literal hand in the victory, coming up big to deny Venezuela from the spot after the referee awarded a late penalty. That’s so not-England.
Solanke, who was named Player of the Tournament, can be proud of his contributions in this England campaign, just ahead of his move to Liverpool from Chelsea’s system. He was lively throughout the proceedings, scoring a total of four goals, including two in the key semi-final win over Italy. Ojo appeared as a substitute in that semi-final and played an important role, setting up two of the goals and earning himself another substitute appearance in the final against Venezuela.
These youth international tournaments naturally don’t elicit the same level of attention or excitement as the senior tournaments, but they do provide an opportunity for promising youngsters to show what they can do on an immense platform for their stage of development. Experience in big matches is precious and can only help the club going forward, especially given Jürgen Klopp’s willingness to deploy youth when the situation calls for it.