ISTANBUL: France won the Under-20 World Cup for the first time after drawing with Uruguay 0-0 after extra time and winning the penalty shootout 4-1 on Saturday. France goalkeeper Alphonse Areola saved Uruguay’s first two penalties – from Emiliano Velazquez and Giorgian De Arrascaeta – before Dimitri Foulquier converted the fourth for France, giving the Europeans an insurmountable lead.
The French celebrated for minutes on the field with rhythmic dance moves, singing and waving to fans, before captain Paul Pogba lifted the trophy. “Incredible, this is the World Cup, the World Cup, the World Cup! It is something extraordinary,” said Pogba, who was voted best player of the tournament by FIFA. “It will need some time to realize what we’ve done tonight.” In the 36-year history of the event, France is the sixth European champion, but only the second in the past 20 years following Spain’s victory in 1999.
“This is a formidable day,” France coach Pierre Mankowski said. “I have to take my hat off to my players. France is a collective. Paul (Pogba) is important but it is the group of 21 that won us this title. Solidarity is the biggest quality of this team.” Areola starred in goal with a couple of excellent saves in regulation before mastering two penalty kicks. “This is a great feeling, a relief as well,” Areola said. “Saving the first two penalties was massive. It gave us a psychological advance as it took the pressure off from our players.” Uruguay suffered its second defeat in a final after losing to Argentina in 1997.
“It’s very tough to talk now,” Uruguay coach Juan Verzeri said. “We knew France is one of the best teams in Europe, they have a lot of international experience. We played very well during the first 90 minutes. We couldn’t score but we had 20 shots on goal.” France had a modest start to the tournament with a draw against the United States and a defeat to Spain, but the team improved in the knockout stage. France found fluency in its attacking game and eased past host Turkey (4-1) and Uzbekistan (4-0), before edging Ghana 2-1 in the semifinals.
“I didn’t hesitate about the players at all,” Mankowski said about the slow start. “The first round of matches is always difficult … it was a killer group.” France conceded just two goals in the knockout stage, and kept a clean sheet in the final despite missing suspended defender Samuel Umtiti, who was sent off for a second booking against Ghana. Uruguay was not regarded as one of the tournament favorites despite defeating 2011 champion Brazil in qualifying. It beat Spain in extra time in the quarterfinals and was held to 1-1 by unheralded Iraq in the semis before advancing on penalties.
Six players of Verzeri’s squad missed out on a world title for the second time after also losing the Under-17 World Cup final to host Mexico in 2011. In Saturday’s final, France dominated ball possession, but Uruguay created more danger, mainly through winger Nicolas Lopez, who had six shots on goal. After the match, Uruguay’s Guillermo De Amores was named best keeper of the tournament by FIFA, while Ghana’s Ebenezer Assifuah won the Golden Boot for being the top goal-scorer with six. Ghana beat Iraq 3-0 earlier Saturday to finish third. – AP