Passion, quality and grit: Solanke stars in England's U-20 World Cup win
No sooner had the game finished, the on-air commentator couldn’t contain himself from declaring the current crop of young Englishmen as the ‘golden generation’. While the excitement was palpable, given that England hadn’t reached a World Cup final since 1966, it was a bit of a premature comment. Or was it spot on?
Time will best answer the above-mentioned question but one thing is for sure, these youngsters are ready for the next step in their careers. For the majority of the game, there were hardly any nerves on display by these youngsters who seemed to make the most of the occasion. Both teams contributed to an entertaining counter and ensured that one’s eyes were glued to the screen.
Freddie Woodman, the Croydon-born lad, cemented his name in history when he pulled off an astounding one-hand save in the 73rd minute as Venezuela failed to make the most of a well-spotted penalty. English fans were in for a nervy time as the referee awarded the penalty after a knee on knee contact had sent the Venezuelan forward sprawling in the box.
But as Penaranda, the Venezuelan forward stepped up, Woodman, who was diving to his right, somehow stretched out his left hand to deflect the ball away from the goal and ensure that the lead remained with the English side.
Earlier it was England who had taken the lead through Dominic Calvert-Lewin after the forward emphatically outjumped his marker, before shooting at the goal. Having seen his initial shot saved, the youngster reacted on the rebound to slot in with his left foot. It was truly a goal of high quality showcasing why the Evertonian is so highly rated. Calvin continued to threaten as he was set almost set up by his keeper soon after but failed to make it count.
Amidst all this, one man who has continued to dominate the headlines this week is Dominic Solanke. The Chelsea youngster who is on the verge of joining Liverpool once his contract expires at Stamford Bridge has been the centre of attention for reasons other than his football. Coming into the tournament with a decision to make on his future, the youngster didn’t let all the happenings around him unnerve his game.
Instead at times over the course of this tournament, the youngster’s playing style seemed to scream out to the watching public. His intent to prove himself was best exemplified by the bloodied challenge he sustained in the final in the dying embers of the game.
That aside, Solanke gave an example of his talent as early as the 22nd minute when held on to the ball outside the box before squaring it for the onrushing Lookman who wasted no time in unloading a drive that the opposition keeper did well to keep out. The youngster did have the chance to get his name on the scoresheet as early as the 10th minute when he found himself eight yards out with only the keeper to beat. Inexplicably, the youngster failed to make that chance count as he dragged his shot into the ground.
Juergen Klopp, will look to tap into the fervent energy that Solanke possesses and hopefully harness that to the team’s advantage. Limited chances on the Stamford Bridge bench have been a constant source of frustration for a lot of young Chelsea youngsters in the recent past.
Other than Solanke, Patrick Bamford is another promising youngster was been denied opportunities when in the Chelsea senior team. Klopp, who generally believes in a sustainable model of developing talent, could dip into the transfer market for further reinforcements over the course of this summer. But the decisiveness with which the Merseyside club has acted to snap up the youngster does show some intent to build a squad which can be a mix of rising stars with experienced heads.
With Danny Ings also ready to prove himself this season, Klopp is aware that his squad needs to be competitive if they are to challenge on all fronts this season. The German’s ideology of high press and quick turnovers mean that there is a need for players to push themselves throughout the season. But that can be the Achilles heel for a squad as small as Liverpool’s as their main players seem to tire out.
Klopp can take a leaf out of Zidane’s coaching book, especially this season as Madrid players continued to peak during the most crucial phases of their season owing to squad rotation. But in order to achieve that, the German needs to have players who are ready to challenge the first team. In light of that, the Solanke coup seems more and more pertinent.
Kudos to Solanke
Dominic Solanke picking up the Golden Boot, alongside Woodman who was presented with the golden glove was the icing on the cake as England grind out a victory which was well earned. Going into the final, the youngster was on course to become the top scorer in the tournament. But while the goals may not have come from his boot, it was his tenacity and determination that ensured England’s defence of their lead was from the first line of attack.
And that ferocity and stubbornness were present throughout in the English game, as they threw themselves into challenges and tackles irrespective of their position on the pitch. With the senior squad pulling up of an important draw against Scotland the night before, the youngsters ensured their names will go down in the annals of history.
A major number of senior professionals have already conveyed their pleasure through Twitter, with England captain, Harry Kane leading the way with congratulations. Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand have also subsequently followed with their congratulatory tweets.
Paul Simpson, the coach, had done his bit by giving them a rousing speech and told his players to seize the opportunity. His players responded magnificently and have now ended an arduous wait for an international trophy.