After 22 days of competition, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 is set to conclude with Venezuela and England both looking to become world champions in the age group for the very first time.
Taking centre stage after the match for third place between Uruguay and Italy, the two finalists will step out at the Suwon World Cup Stadium on Sunday at 19:00 (local time) with designs on lifting the trophy at the end of the night.
Though neither side were tipped to get this far, both have shown that they deserve to be where they are. While Venezuela were the more impressive in the group phase, winning all three of their matches, the English have been in irresistible form in the knockout phase, all of which points to a very intriguing encounter.
Matches of the day
Match for third place: Uruguay-Italy | Final: Venezuela-England
What you need to know
1 Venezuela’s exceptional run is rich reward for two and a half years of hard work, numerous training camps and no fewer than 37 friendlies. Not for nothing are La Vinotinto the competition’s leading scorers with 14 goals and the most prolific side in terms of attacking statistics: most shots on goal (110), most attempts on target (38) and most shots against the woodwork (5), a stat in which they are level with England. Meanwhile, Wuilker Farinez has made the fewest saves (13) of the four goalkeepers who contested the semi-finals. Farinez has been outstanding for his team, producing some truly superb stops, though he has been ably supported by his defence.
2 England are the competition’s fourth-highest scorers with 11 goals, while their keeper Freddie Woodman has had to make only two more saves than Farinez, an indication of the strength of his backline. Paul Simpson will be pleased to have midfielder Josh Onomah available for selection again following his sending-off in the quarter-finals, though the coach has been backed up by his supporting cast, having used every member of his squad so far with the exception of third-choice keeper Luke Southwood.
3 One of the key aspects of the final will be fitness levels, with England having played considerably less football to date. Simpson’s side have won all their knockout matches in normal time, beating Costa Rica 2-1 in the Round of 16, Mexico 1-0 in the last eight and Italy 3-1 in the semis. In stark contrast, the only matches Venezuela have won in 90 minutes came in the group phase. La Vinotinto needed extra-time to overcome Japan 1-0 and USA 2-1 and then an emotionally draining penalty shootout to see off Uruguay.
4 Though understandably disappointed not to be in the final, Uruguay and Italy will both be going flat out for victory in the match for third place. The two sides faced off in their opening match in the group phase, which was settled by Rodrigo Amaral’s wonder strike for the South Americans. Win or lose, Italy have already made sure of their best ever finish in the competition, while Uruguay are two-time runners-up and also finished third at Japan 1979 and fourth at Tunisia 1977 and Nigeria 1999.