07222017

‘There’s no problem with talent’ – can the England Under-20 side make it at senior level?

England Under 20s celebrate

Dominic Solanke, who recently left Chelsea to join Liverpool, scored twice as England beat Italy on Thursday

England have reached the final of the Under-20 World Cup for the first time by beating Italy 3-1 in the semi-finals.

They play Venezuela in South Korea on Sunday (11:00 BST), with previous U20 sides having failed to win a single game at the tournament in the past two decades.

England have bettered their previous best performance of finishing third in 1993.

Of that squad, only four players went on to represent England at senior level. But many had successful top-flight careers, including a Premier League and Champions League winner.

Is this 2017 side a potential ‘golden generation’? Will they get their break in the Premier League? Are they the future England squad for the 2022 World Cup?

England manager Gareth Southgate has described the team’s progress as “brilliant for youth development in our country”.

He added: “If we’ve got a team in the final at that age group, why are we looking around the world? There’s a lot of talent. Hopefully the world will see what is happening there.

“Everyone says we don’t have good youth development and people search to bring people in when players are there under their noses.

“Our coaching and youth development and young players get knocked, but why shouldn’t young English players be able to achieve?

“There’s no problem with talent. That group have a very strong mentality. They’ve been through a lot together as a group, and recovered from knocks. They’ve mixed ability with hard work.”

So who are they?

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman (Newcastle), Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Luke Southwood (Reading)

Defenders: Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham), Callum Connolly (Everton), Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (Charlton)

Midfielders: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Kieran Dowell (Everton), Josh Onomah (Tottenham), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool), Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool)

Forwards: Adam Armstrong (Newcastle), Ademola Lookman (Everton), Harrison Chapman (Middlesbrough), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea, joining Liverpool on 1 July)

Recent call-ups also include Tammy Abraham and Izzy Brown, who have moved on to the U21s, and Celtic’s treble-winning winger Patrick Roberts, who is injured.

Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson are other recent U20 players who have made Premier League appearances.

England U20s

England have never reached the final of the U20 World Cup

How much first-team football have they played?

Of the 21-man squad, 16 played senior league football this season, half of them on loan, while striker Adam Armstrong played for both loan club Barnsley and parent club Newcastle.

Everton forward Ademola Lookman also represented two sides this season, having joined the Toffees from Charlton for £11m in January.

The current side have made a total of 72 Premier League appearances to date, Armstrong leading the way with 15, having made his top-flight debut as a late substitute in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat by Fulham on 15 March 2014.

Everton’s Kieran Dowell and Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo made no senior league appearances this season but both represented their teams in the 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

Dowell made his debut in a final-day win over Norwich, while Ojo played eight times after being recalled in January from a loan spell at Wolves and has appeared twice for the Reds in the FA Cup this season.

Captain Lewis Cook joined Bournemouth from Leeds last summer but only made six Premier League appearances due to a persistent ankle injury.

Reading keeper Luke Southwood, Spurs full-back Kyle Walker-Peters and Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke are the only players without a full competitive senior appearance – the latter perhaps moving to Liverpool in search of first-team football.

Ezri Konsa

Erzi Konza made his Charlton debut this season and played 39 times in all competitions

Better off at a lower level?

Ezri Konsa has comfortably played the most minutes of the current squad this season, having been a first-team fixture at League One side Charlton.

However, the versatile 19-year-old, who can play at centre-back and in midfield, was only called up into the England U20 squad after Brentford’s Rico Henry sustained an injury. His first action in South Korea came as a last-minute substitute against Italy.

Newcastle’s Armstrong has started fewer games than Konsa but made more appearances, once again benefitting from a loan move to fellow Championship side Barnsley, having scored 20 goals in 40 appearances for Coventry in the 2015-16 League One season.

Lookman has played the third most minutes, having been a regular alongside Konsa at Charlton before making eight Premier League appearances for Everton.

The Everton connection

Just three days after the sacking of former manager Roberto Martinez in May last year, Everton responded with a vibrant 3-0 win over already-relegated Norwich at Goodison Park.

Victory provided a brief lift at the end of a poor season but was more notable for the impressive performances of several youngsters selected by interim boss David Unsworth – a member of the England U20 squad in 1993.

Dowell and defender Jonjoe Kenny stood out, fellow U20 international Callum Connolly was an unused substitute and Tom Davies made his first start, leaving Unsworth noticeably proud.

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Everton youngsters ‘outstanding’ – David Unsworth

Although Davies has gone on to become a vital part of current boss Ronald Koeman’s plans, Dowell was unused this season and Kenny only played once, while Connolly was sent out on loan to eventually relegated Championship side Wigan Athletic.

However, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has made 11 Premier League appearances this season and the highly-rated Lookman scored on a memorable 4-0 debut win over Manchester City.

And current Everton boss Ronald Koeman has indicated an appreciation of his young talent, by allowing all five Everton members of the Under-20 squad to miss the last two weeks of the season in preparation for the World Cup.