U20 World Cup: Five things for England fans to look out for in South Korea tournament
By Pete Hall
Last Updated: 19/05/17 6:07am
With the U20 World Cup getting under way on Saturday in South Korea, we look at five things that England fans need to know ahead of the tournament.
As the domestic season draws to a close, fear not, there is still plenty of football taking place across the continent, with the 20th U20 World Cup tournament almost upon us. England face a tough test of their credentials.
Hosts South Korea, Guinea and the tournament's most successful team, Argentina, lie in wait in the group stages. Do England have a chance? What is there previous record like? Who are the key personnel? We take a look…
England U20 World Cup squad
Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman (Newcastle), Luke Southwood (Reading), Dean Henderson (Man Utd)
Defenders: Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Callum Connolly (Everton), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Rico Henry (Brentford), Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham), Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Josh Onomah (Tottenham), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), Kieran Dowell (Everton), Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool), Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool)
Forwards: Adam Armstrong (Newcastle), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea), Ademola Lookman (Everton), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harrison Chapman (Middlesbrough).
20 years of hurt
Optimists avert your eyes now. England's recent record at U20 level is nothing short of abysmal. Since winning all three group games in the 1997 tournament, the Young Lions have not won a single game at an U20 World Cup. They have not qualified for four editions of the tournament in that time, but in their five U20 World Cup appearances in those 20 years, they've drawn seven times and lost on nine occasions. An impressive performance is long overdue.
Reasons for hope
Despite that terrible record, this really could be their year...right? The Young Lions have been mightily impressive in the run-up to this tournament. In winning the Four Nations tournament in March, their final fixtures ahead of South Korea 2017, they beat a heavily-fancied France, Senegal and drew with Portugal. In fact, Paul Simpson's side have lost just once in their last nine games.
Big names could be missed
If England are to succeed at the tournament, they'll have to do so without three star attractions. At this level, it is not often that senior first-team commitments get in the way, but that is exactly why Manchester City's Patrick Roberts - who is on loan at Celtic - Manchester United's Axel Tuanzebe and Chelsea's Izzy Brown - who is on loan at Huddersfield - have not travelled with Simpson's squad.
Bournemouth's Lewis Cook and Middlesbrough defender Dael Fry will join the squad after this weekend's Premier League games.
Guinea overcome adversity to face Young Lions
Sometimes football offers up the most heartwarming of stories. After a 38-year absence Guinea have qualified for this tournament, and will face England on Tuesday May 23. However, there is much more to this story than simply overcoming sporting odds.
"[Qualification was a] real achievement, especially as Guinea has suffered greatly with the Ebola virus," coach Mandjou Diallo told FIFA.com.
"Fortunately, we were relatively safe in Conakry, compared to the central and forested regions. And then there was the area that borders Sierra Leone, where the epidemic struck hard."
Sometimes, simply being there is achievement enough.
A new champion will be crowned
Led by current Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic, Serbia won their second U20 World Cup at the 2015 tournament in New Zealand. Despite that success, Serbia will not be able to defend their crown in 2017, as they were unable to reach the final round of UEFA's U20 World Cup qualifying tournament.
This marks the fifth straight U20 World Cup where the incumbent title holder will be absent from the field.