The FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 is steadily building to a climax.
The semi-finals kick off with the clash of two South American sides, followed by the meeting of two European heavyweights. For the winners, a place awaits in the grand finale in Suwon on June 11.
Uruguay and Venezuela go head to head in Daejeon late on Thursday afternoon, with Italy and England then rounding off the day’s action in Jeonju. Whatever the outcomes, all roads lead to the football hotbed of Suwon, where the winners will contest the final and the losers the play-off for third place.
Semi-finals: Uruguay – Venezuela | Italy – England
What you need to know
1 For South American champions Uruguay, victory over Venezuela would mean a third U-20 World Cup final appearance, after 1997 and 2013. Interestingly, no other team in U-20 World Cup history have participated in more penalty shoot-outs than Uruguay. La Celeste lost out to the eventual-champions France after penalties were needed to decide the final of Turkey 2013, while in this edition, the South Americans booked their place in the last four after a nail-biting shoot-out with Portugal. In total, Uruguay have prevailed in five of the eight shoot-outs they have contested in this competition.
2 Having already bettered their previous best U-20 World Cup showing by advancing to the semi-final, Venezuela can now breathe a sigh of relief. However, their incredible run of 507 minutes without conceding came to an end when USA forward Jeremey Ebobisse struck for the Stars and Stripes just before full time. In their four preceding games at Korea Republic 2017, the Vinotinto defence was not breached once.
3 Italy and England will renew acquaintances in their semi-final, having met at the same stage of the UEFA European U-19 Championship in Germany last year. On that occasion, Italian left-back Federico Dimarco put his side in front from the penalty spot before curling in a magnificent free-kick on 60 minutes to double their lead. A late Italian own-goal proved to be a mere consolation for England, who will be determined to make amends this time around.
4 Both England and Italy had a player sent off in their respective quarter-finals before eventually prevailing. A first-half red card for Azzurrini defender Giuseppe Pezzella left his side with ten men until they secured victory in extra-time. As for England, they lost midfielder Josh Onomah after he picked up a second yellow against Mexico. It will be interesting to see how both teams cope without the suspended duo in the semi-final.