“Not every game has to be pretty, but we’re champions of the world.”
Having given a performance typified in equal measure by grit and flair, triumphant captain Lewis Cook remained as modest as ever as England made history by winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time.
They certainly had to dig deep against a Venezuela side who have impressed all throughout Korea Republic 2017, but England have rightly garnered plaudits from all sides as they have fused flowing football, individual talent, impressive organisation and a tangible team ethos. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s opener gave them the perfect platform to utilise those strengths and bring their World Cup dreams into focus with a 1-0 win.
“I can’t express in words what I’m feeling now,” the goal-scorer told FIFA.com following the on-pitch celebrations. “I mean, to win a World Cup, not many people can do it. The team’s winning mentality has carried us through. We believed in ourselves.”
It took two bites of the cherry for the Everton man to beat impressive Vintotino keeper Wuilker Farinez, but he was not going to be denied his second of the tournament. “I probably should have scored from the first opportunity, but I just carried on,” he explained.
“I anticipated that the keeper was going to parry it, followed the ball and sent it into the corner. Next thing I remember is the lads all around me celebrating.”
One of those was Josh Onomah who, alongside the impressive Cook, created a slick tandem in the centre of the field. He also came close to scoring arguably the greatest goal in the history of U-20 World Cup finals. Having seen Ronaldo Lucena hit the post in the first half from 35 yards, he tried his luck from similar range and his rocket almost sent jaws dropping to the floor.
“When I saw that hit the crossbar, I couldn’t believe it,” the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder said, before turning to the medal around his neck. “I’m lost for words. From the start, wanting to win the World Cup to finally doing it is a dream come true. Venezuela made it a real challenge for us, but we dug deep and credit to our lads as well as we fought and came out with the victory.”
Had it not been for the penalty-saving heroics of Freddie Woodman, it could easily have been a different story – having thrown out a hand to deny Adalberto Penaranda. “I’ve seen Freddie train every day, I’ve taken penalties against him myself and I never had a doubt that he wasn’t going to save it,” said Newcastle United team-mate Adam Armstrong, who scored in England’s opening win over Argentina.
“I’m confident in Fred,” concurred Cook. “I was just looking at him and thinking, ‘you can do this, you can save us’ and he did.” Now, the skipper just has to get used to the idea of being a world champion.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It’s the best day of my life by far. It’s been a wonderful experience here in Korea, and couldn’t have asked for anything more from the lads. Unbelievable.”