FIFA U-20 World Cup

5 Biggest Stars From The FIFA U-20 World Cup

Galaxy of stars was born at the just concluded FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea. But which of them shone the brightest and left unforgettable footprints in our hearts?

England made history as they claimed their first title, capping off a scintillating tournament with a 1-0 win over Venezuela in a pulsating final on Sunday. Italy, meanwhile, bounced back from their semi-final slump against the Young Lions to clinch third-place, at the expense of Uruguay.

Here are the best five performers from the 21st edition of the biennial competition.

1 - Dominic Solanke

While talks about his future remain uncertain, Dominic Solanke went about his business on the pitch with panache, stunning for England in Korea. The 19-year-old, expected to link up with Liverpool next season, was pivotal as the Young Lions cruised to the trophy. After first registering from the spot against Argentina in the opener, Solanke developed a habit of scoring when it mattered most. Rising to the occasion in the knockout rounds, he netted the only goal against Mexico in the quarter-finals before adding a brace in the semis against Italy to take his tally to four. Ultimately, he was named Player of the Tournament - a recognition for his all-round contribution to his team.

“I was chuffed when they told me I was going to win [the Golden Ball]. On top of winning the main trophy, I’m really happy,” Solanke told FIFA.com. “It’s amazing to win such a big tournament, everyone was rooting for us back home and we knew if we did everything right we’d get the result, and we did. It still hasn’t really sunk in.”

2 - Riccardo Orsolini

Italy was obviously the most tactically proficient side at the competition. La Celeste didn't score too many goals and conceded few as well en route to clamping third. But each time they struck, it was almost certain who it was; Riccardo Orsolini. The Italians managed just 10 goals, with Orsolini alone grabbing five of those. That tally was enough to earn him the Adidas Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer. But shockingly, Orsolini, signed by Juventus in January, wasn't even part of the original squad to the Mundial. The 20-year-old gatecrashed Alberigo Evani's team as a late replacement for an injured player.

"I didn't expect that I'd be top scorer,” said Orsolini. “[These things don’t] happen every day. Playing in a world championship and winning this kind of award means so much to me. I look forward to seeing how the future evolves, as there are many possibilities. But, now, it’s vacation time! I’m heading for some sun and sea! [Laughs]"

3 - Santiago Mele

England's Freddie Woodman may have clinched the Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper. Indeed, his heroes in the final eventually won his country the title. But it was Uruguay shot-stopper, Santiago Mele, not the Englishman, who impressed the most throughout the tourney. Mele racked up an unbelievable 22 saves, the most in the competition. To add to that, the 19-year-old was beaten just thrice, another tournament high. Woodman, on the other hand, garnered two saves less and conceded eight goals.

4 - Joshua Sargent

Despite exiting Korea in the last eight, the United States can still hold their heads high for entertaining everyone with their beautiful and attractive brand of football. Led by the inspirational marksman, Joshua Sargent, The Stars and Stripes notched 12 goals, five of which was contributed by the 18-year-old. But this isn't the first time Sargent's goalscoring prowess has come to the fore. He struck five times to help the U-17 MNT qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, taking place later this year.

5 - Federico Valverde

When it came to marshalling the midfield, then Uruguay starlet, Federico Valverde, was unmatched at the competition. Valverde, currently on the books of Real Madrid, was a vital cog in the middle of the park for the South Americans. His energy, athleticism and dynamism sparkled in Korea, showcasing just why he's been likened to his senior teammate, Casimero. Despite scoring once throughout the competition, Valverde still picked the Silver Ball as the second-best player, behind Solanke.

About the Author Toby Prince

An unrepentant soccer freak other freaks call geek.

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