England’s victory in the U20 World Cup quarter-final on Monday against Mexico means the national football team has a tournament semi-final to look forward to. At any level or age, it doesn’t happen often.
For example, the last time England reached an U20 World Cup semi-final was 24 years ago in 1993.
Future senior internationals Nicky Butt, Nicky Barmby and Alan Thompson all featured in that squad that eventually lost out to Ghana in the last four.
Does the latest England U20 side have any future senior internationals within their ranks?
Having notoriously struggled at U20 tournaments, England have gone through this one unbeaten, having topped a group that included Argentina before beating Costa Rica and Mexico in the knockouts.
Now Paul Simpson’s side will face Italy on Thursday for a place in the final against either Uruguay or Venezuala.
Simpson has raved about the close-knit nature of this England side, praising their “steely determination” to not just go deep in the tournament but to go on and win it. He’s always been keen not to single out individuals, but it’s a side full of talent, many whom are on the cusp of a Premier League first-team.
We pick out five of the standout players so far….
Lewis Cook (Bournemouth)
The skipper and heartbeat of this team in central midfield.
Leeds United fans will be well aware of his talents having made 81 appearances for the first-team as an 18-year-old before Eddie Howe came poaching at Bournemouth with a £7m bid last summer. Injury problems blighted his maiden season in the Premier League but he got some game time towards the back end of the campaign, including an impressive showing when the Cherries hammered Middlesbrough.
Very shrewd in possession, Cook’s forward passing sets most of England’s sharp attacks and his distribution was clear to see in the quarter-final, providing the assist for Dominic Solanke to score.
Ademola Lookman (Everton)
Burst onto the scene for Everton on his debut by scoring in a victory against Manchester City, and he sprinkles the magic dust over this England U20 side. Simpson has him playing off the left-wing, which enables him to cut in and also wander into a central area where he’s linked well with Solanke and Toffees teammate Dominic Calvert-Lewin – as shown when he bagged both goals in the 2-1 win over Costa Rica.
The former Charlton forward has always been held in high regard by the England youth set-up and he looks the type of player that will be given a chance with the senior team, in time, if continuing his progression.
Jonjoe Kenny (Everton)
A full-back very much in the mould of Seamus Coleman. His style is no thrills, but he’s fiercely fast and direct with the ball. England always look to him for an outlet on the right-flank where he’s built a good relationship another promising Everton youngster Kieren Dowell, who plays off the right for Simpson’s men.
His attacking burrows were in short supply in the quarter-final but – along with his defensive partners – he showed great resolution and maturity to quell a late rally from Mexico, who had a man advantage at the time.
Dominic Solanke (joining Liverpool on July 1)
The forward has made the headlines back home in recent weeks for deciding to leave Chelsea to go in search of first-team football with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. He’s done his reputation no harm with some strong performances leading the line in Korea.
Criticism was directed at him from some quarters during his season long loan spell with Vitesse for only scoring seven goals, but he made no mistake with his only chance of the game against Mexico. Full of pace, power and a good brain, he’s the type of player that Klopp will surely enjoy working with.
Josh Onomah (Tottenham)
Sent-off in the quarter-final in farcical circumstances, Onomah will now miss the semi-final due to suspension, which could be a big void to fill. Simpson called the decision “shocking” after Onomah picked up a second booking for accidentally treading on an opponent’s leg when dribbling past him.
The holding midfielder patrols the area in front of the back four with great maturity and he possesses a good engine which enables him to get involved with the attacking play. Liverpool youngster Ovie Ejaria will probably replace him against Italy.