When the 2016-17 season came to an end, football fans were bemoaning the fact that there would be nothing to get excited about until it all kicks off again in August. That is until the Under-20 World Cup got into full swing.
The youth tournament staged in South Korea genuinely provided plenty of drama, excitement and surprise as well as giving a platform for some of the world’s brightest young talents to showcase their skills on the international stage.
England, of course, ended up winning the trophy by beating surprise package Venezuela in the final and in doing so becoming the first Three Lions team to win a tournament across any age group since 1966.
A number of prospects enhanced their reputations over the past few weeks but who made it into the Squawka Team of the Tournament?
Goalkeeper: Freddie Woodman
Club: Newcastle United
Freddie Woodman started in all but one of England’s matches during the tournament and proved to be a difficult man to score against, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just two goals overall. That form led to him winning the Golden Glove award.
The Newcastle United shot-stopper was a commanding presence between the sticks and exuded confidence throughout. Not only that, he made a vital penalty save to preserve England’s lead late on against Venezuela in the final, somehow clawing away Adalberto Penaranda’s effort.
Right Back: Jonjoe Kenny
Everton had a strong presence in the England squad with five players making the squad of 21 and while Dominic Calvert-Lewin will steal the headlines for his World Cup-winning goal, it was Jonjoe Kenny who impressed most out of the Toffees contingent.
The marauding full-back helped himself to two assists and offered an attacking outlet on the right flank throughout the competition while also being extremely resolute defensively.
Judging by his performances in South Korea, Kenny looks Premier League ready.
Centre Back: Agustin Rogel
A typically no-nonsense Uruguayan stopper, Agustin Rogel was the heart and soul of the Uruguay team, passionately heading and clearing anything that came his way.
His man-to-man marking was exceptional and his overall reading of the game and positional play was exceptional for one so young. Uruguay
Uruguay are famed for their development of strong, uncompromising central defenders and Rogel looks set to join fellow young talents, Jose Gimenez and Mauricio Lemos in their backline for years to come.
Centre Back: Erik Palmer-Brown
Nation: United States
Club: Sporting Kansas City
Erik Palmer-Brown was one-half of a double-barrelled central defensive partnership alongside Tottenham’s brute Cameron Carter-Vickers for the United States and really caught the eye with his mature performances.
While the Spurs man is the better known of the two, Palmer-Brown was the more impressive, delivering a series of accomplished displays at the heart of the defence and excelling with his distribution up the field.
Left Back: Yuri Ribeiro
Portugal’s tournament ended prematurely when they were knocked out by Uruguay on spot-kicks in the quarter-finals in a match where Yuri Ribeiro conceded a crucial penalty in regulation time.
That was the only time that the Benfica academy graduate put a foot wrong, though, as otherwise, he was excellent, rampaging up and down the left flank in every game.
Centre Midfield: Federico Valverde
Club: Real Madrid Castilla
The second-best player of the tournament according to FIFA, taking the Silver Ball away with him, Federico Valverde’s all-action displays in the centre of the park were pivotal in helping Uruguay reach the semi-final.
Stille only 18, Valverde marshalled the Uruguay defence in the manner of a seasoned professional and demonstrated the immense composure he already possesses by slotting home a crucial penalty against Portugal in the quarters.
He broke into the first team at Penarol – one of Uruguay’s most successful clubs – as a 17-year-old and earned a move to Real Madrid shortly afterwards which shows just how highly regarded he is.
Centre Midfield: Lewis Cook
After winning the Football League Apprentice of the Year award in 2015 and the Football League Young Player of the Year in 2016, Lewis Cook earned a £6m move from Leeds United to Bournemouth last summer.
An injury-plagued campaign for the Cherries represented the first speed bump in Cook’s impressive career to date but he bounced back emphatically to captain England to tournament success with a series of assured displays in the middle.
So good was Cook, he is now being talked of as a future senior player for the Three Lions.
Centre Midfield: Yangel Herrera
Club: New York City FC (on loan from Manchester City)
The heartbeat of the Venezuela team that defied all expectations by reaching the final, Yangel Herrera looked every inch the complete midfield player based on his performances in South Korea.
Aside from his leadership qualities, Herrera’s energy and appetite to press his team high up the pitch caught the eye as did his technical quality when spraying passes across the pitch. His partnership with the excellent Ronaldo Lucena was a joy to watch.
Herrera was awarded the Bronze Ball at the tournament and Manchester City will be delighted that they managed to secure his services before anyone else in January.
Right Wing: Riccardo Orsolini
The competition’s top goalscorer with five goals, Riccardo Orsolini enhanced his burgeoning reputation with an extremely strong showing at the competition, excelling in an inside forward role on the right wing.
His sweeping left-footed finish against England in the semi-finals highlighted his proficiency in the opposition penalty box and he looks destined to have a great career ahead of him having joined Juventus from Ascoli in January.
Left Wing: Adalberto Penaranda
By far one of the most established players at the tournament having played in La Liga and Serie A over the past couple of seasons as well as making 11 appearances for Venezuela’s senior team.
Tipped to be a star of the competition from the outset, Adalberto Peñaranda certainly lived up to his billing, thriving as Venezuela’s attacking talisman in a roaming role off the left wing.
Peñaranda ended the competition with two goals and three assists and it is that contribution that should be remembered rather than his costly penalty miss in the final.
Striker: Dominic Solanke
England’s leading goalscorer with four goals in seven matches, Dominic Solanke scooped the Golden Ball award for his efforts, following the likes of Diego Maradona, Sergio Aguero, Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba. Not bad company.
Tasked with leading the line for the Three Lions, Solanke displayed all the attributes required to be a top-class No.9, holding the ball up impressively, linking up with his teammates, bursting behind the defence and finishing his chances.
Having joined Liverpool in a controversial switch from Chelsea a few weeks ago, all eyes will be on Solanke to see if he can build on this tournament in the Premier League next season.