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Suso, Lopetegui in sync in defeat

This is football.” That was the sombre, but matter-of-fact, assessment that echoed from either sides of the Spanish touchline as they crashed out of the FIFA U-20 World Cup at the hands of Uruguay.

Both La Rojita midfielder Suso and his coach Julen Lopetegui cut dejected figures after the 1-0 quarter-final defeat at Bursa’s Ataturk Stadium. With the innards of the arena littered with shell-shocked Spaniards after the surprise loss, the pair conceded that the competition would now have to be seen as point of growth, rather than one of eventual triumph.

The 19-year-old Liverpool starlet remained composed in the aftermath, putting a brave face on the outcome when speaking to FIFA.com, with an empty-handed journey home now awaiting his side. I think we have to learn from every moment, from every point of the tournament, he said. “I think this will obviously be the biggest one, and it will be a learning experience for all of us.

While clearly exasperated and disappointed to be departing Turkey 2013 earlier than he had anticipated or hoped for, Lopetegui reflected believed the pain of the result would take his players forward in their development. “They are very young and this [tournament] has been a big step for them,” said the 1985 FIFA U-20 World Cup runner-up.

They will learn from what they have been through here. It will help give them a greater appreciation of the game as you have to learn to win, and you have to learn to lose – this is football.

Having coasted through the group stage at a canter, Spain‘s tournament began to wear away at the seams during the knockout stages. First, they went down to an early goal against Mexico, needing a deflected, 90th-minute Jese goal secure passage with a 2-1 win. Then their Turkey 2013 journey fully unravelled when Felipe Avenatti’s header hit the back of the net in the 103rd minute. However, in Suso‘s eyes, they were unfortunate to be dealt a tough hand.

You have to learn to win, and you have to learn to lose – this is football.

We got nine points in the groups, but in the knockout stages we came up against the toughest teams we could have, I think, in Mexico and Uruguay,” he said. “This is football, and if you want to win a World Cup you have to beat the best teams. We tried to do that today, but luck just wasn’t on our side.

Spain dominated possession, just as they had against Mexico, but a well-organised Charruas side proved too formidable to find a way through. While admitting both sides had begun well, Suso felt La Rojita had done enough to deserve passage into the final four. “I think we played some good football, but in the first half both teams were playing really well, he said.

However, Uruguay were waiting for us to come at them and defended, which made it difficult for us to work through them in the first-half. In the second half though I think we were the better side; the only real chance they had from then on was from the corner where they scored.

Having won European titles in charge of Spain‘s U-19 and U-21 sides in the last year, it was not to be a unique 12-month treble for Lopetegui. “We had our chances, and definitely enough to make it though this quarter-final,” he conceded. “For me, we had the better opportunities but once they scored we couldn’t turn it around. I think we deserved to win, but it wasn’t to be.

France claim maiden U-20 crown

Fully in line with the official slogan, ‘Building bridges for future stars’, a high-quality FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 threw the global spotlight on a number of teams and a host of talented players. The broadest smiles at the end were on French faces, as Les Bleuets claimed the U-20 crown for the first time after a nail-biting victory in the final. It also means France are the first nation to win all five FIFA tournaments in men’s 11-a-side international football.

After normal and extra time failed to produce a goal in the final, a 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay meant it was France captain Paul Pogba who hoisted the most prestigious trophy in junior football into the Istanbul night sky. In the match for third place, 2009 winners Ghana overcame surprise packages Iraq 3-0 and went home with the consolation prize of bronze. The top four places at the finals were thus filled by teams from four different confederations.

Tight contests, quality football
Overall, the tournament was as tight and evenly-matched as seldom before, partly due to some notable absentees. Argentina, the most successful nation at this age group, holders Brazil, and European heavyweights Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all failed to qualify.

During the finals, fancied trio Spain, Portugal and Colombia were eliminated prior to the semi-finals. In the knockout stage, no fewer than four matches were decided on penalties, with seven games going to extra time. Overall, 33 of the 52 matches either ended in stalemate after 90 minutes or with the sides only a single goal apart.

“We’ve seen some tremendous games. The teams have laid on fantastic football with last-minute goals and penalty shoot-outs,” reflected Jim Boyce, chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. “The coaching staff have definitely encouraged their players to put on a show for the fans and play great football. It means football is the big winner at this World Cup. The quality was very high,” he summarised.


Starlets favour attack over defence
In general, the crowds were treated to attractive attacking football and goals galore. The games in the seven host cities of Antalya, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Kayseri, Rize and Trabzon produced a total of 152 goals, the fourth highest total since the expansion of the starting field to 24 teams: the players were only more prolific at Egypt 2009 (167 goals), Malaysia 1997 (165) and Nigeria 1999 (158).

The adidas Golden Boot for the top scorer went to six-goal Ghana striker Ebenezer Assifuah, with the adidas Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper won by Uruguay‘s Guillermo De Amores, who was only beaten three times in the entire tournament.

However, the standout personality at the finals was Pogba. The French schemer, strong in the tackle and boasting exceptional stamina, displayed a remarkable ability to read the play and dictate the pace. He led his team-mates from the front, and was first to get them back on their feet after mishaps.

The midfield general in the making impressively spearheaded Les Bleuets’ march to the trophy, earning Pogba the adidas Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. “I’m really happy. We’re all delighted it’s ended this way. It’s exceptional,” the player told FIFA.com immediately after the final.



Thrilling stories, indelible memories
Coach Pierre Mankowski’s young French team emerged as the most disciplined and mature of all 24 contenders in Turkey, combining physical robustness with superb individuals in the wide positions. The French made a modest start with a draw against USA and defeat to Spain in their group, but improved with every passing match after that, finding an extra gear at the start of the knockout stage and binding their strong individuals into a tight unit.


As a whole, the tournament was characterised by no end of stories and anecdotes. Ghana, urged on by their ever-present, colourful and raucous fans, earned themselves the label of ‘comeback kings’ after starting with back-to-back defeats and ultimately sneaking into the Round of 16 as the fourth-best of the third-placed teams in the group stage. Having made the knockout rounds, they came from behind to beat Portugal 3-2, before doing exactly the same against Chile in a thrilling 4-3 extra-time victory.



Surprise packages defy expectations
Iraq‘s performance will also go down in the history books, as they reached the semi-finals at the tournament for the first time thanks to their abundant skill, tireless running and tactical flexibility. Furthermore, their uncompromisingly direct attacking style won the hearts of the Turkish public, and also prompted an outbreak of joyful celebration back home. Together with the unexpectedly strong Uzbeks and a well-drilled Korea Republic, they formed a trio of Asian representatives in the last eight, defying most pundits’ pre-tournament predictions.


Among many surprise results, one of the biggest was South American champions Colombia losing on penalties to the South Koreans in the first knockout round. It meant an premature farewell to prodigiously gifted playmaker Juan Quintero, already a classy footballer and glorious proof that the classic ‘No10’ role has not entirely vanished from the present-day game, and might even be set for a renaissance.



Strong South Americans
As for Spain, their outstanding strikeforce led by Jese Rodriguez and Gerard Deulofeu ran up against the brick wall of Uruguay‘s unyielding defence; the European giants were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The Portuguese and five-goal Bruma lost to Ghana a round earlier, while hosts Turkey also fell at the first knockout hurdle. Driven on by their frenetic home fans, the local heroes did defeat El Salvador and Australia in their group, but were ultimately outclassed by eventual champions France in the last 16.


It was left to Uruguay to uphold South American pride at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, as CONMEBOL supplied a finalist for the seventh time in a row – it had always been Brazil or Argentina in the past. However, despite their near-impenetrable back four complemented by the individual class of skilled duo Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Nicolas Lopez, La Celeste ultimately fell by the tightest possible margin to Pogba and company.


The nerve-shredding shootout provided a final highlight but somehow also an appropriate end to an exceptionally close, high-quality and evenly-matched junior tournament.




Teams

Australia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Ghana, Greece, Iraq, , Korea Republic, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay, USA, Uzbekistan.  

Final Ranking

1. France
2. Uruguay
3. Ghana
4. Iraq

Host cities and Stadiums
Antalya (Akdeniz University Stadium), Bursa (Ataturk Stadium), Gaziantep (Kamil Ocak Stadium), Istanbul (Ali Sami Yen Arena), Kayseri (Kadir Has Stadium), Rize (Yeni Sehir Stadium), Trabzon (Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium)


Goals
152 (average of 2.92 per game)


Top Goalscorers
Ebenezer Assifuah (Ghana) – 6 
Bruma (Portugal) – 5
Jese (Spain) – 5


Awards
adidas Golden Ball: Paul Pogba (France)
adidas Golden Boot: Ebenezer Assifuah (Ghana)
adidas Golden Glove: Guillermo De Amores (Uruguay)

Obuh & Tetteh: A passion for coaching

Two African teams progressed beyond the group stage at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, with Ghana and Nigeria advancing from their respective sections. Both regular outsiders at this level, the pair have something else in common too, their campaigns being helmed by charismatic leaders of men who were once talented players themselves.

Ghana‘s Sellas Tetteh represented iconic club Hearts of Oak and several Nigerian outfits before separate spells in charge of his country’s U-17, U-23 and U-20 sides over the past decade. The 56-year-old’s finest hour came in 2009, when he led the U-20s to the world title in Egypt. As for John Obuh, he came tantalisingly close to clinching a global crown in the same year, when he steered Nigeria‘s U-17s to the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on home soil. The erstwhile forward will not get a chance to better that achievement at Turkey 2013, however, as his side were eliminated by Uruguay in the last 16, and he has now stepped down as Nigeria‘s U-20 coach.

Despite that disappointment, the man famous for his flamboyant headgear – wearing a Stetson in Colombia and beret in Turkey – is not about to give up his convictions. Like Tetteh, whose charges are still in the hunt for U-20 glory, the 53-year-old is a man of steadfast principles. Former team-mates at Nigerian club Julius Berger, the two men were therefore excellent company when they sat down with FIFA.com for a frank and passionate discussion of the tournament, their own teams’ performances and African football in general.

FIFA.com: Gentlemen, what were your respective goals when the FIFA U-20 World Cup began?
Sellas Tetteh (ST): The development of the players. For us, the situation has now changed a bit as we’re in the quarter-finals and we want to win. It’s a learning process for the boys and for the coach. Our goal is still development, but it’s also important to go all the way in the tournament. We’re trying to combine the two.

John Obuh (JO): It’s an important competition because if you don’t do things well at this level, you won’t go on to succeed at the level above. It’s a final hurdle before joining the elite. There are a lot of players who will move from the U-20 team to the senior team, so it’s important to perform well.

What do you think players learn in an environment like this?
ST: If you look at the eight teams still left, we’re the side that had the most difficult start. But my players battled their way through with a lot of spirit. They’ve learned that in football nothing is ever over until the final whistle. That’s an important lesson.

JO: For us, the situation is a little different as we’ve been eliminated. The players need to understand, in particular, that in tournaments like this it’s the referee who decides everything. Whatever they may be feeling, it’s the referee who has the final say, and that’s just the way it is. The referee has his reasons, and he’s doing the best he can as well. In the context of that match [against Uruguay], the lads needed to stay calm and not react too quickly – but human nature is what it is.

You have both been involved in several international tournaments as coaches, and no doubt experienced a whole range of emotions. Which was the greatest challenge?
JO: For me, this tournament has undoubtedly been the most difficult. We had a lot of pressure on us to get results, so we had to build a team with that in mind. It’s a real challenge to combine building for the future with getting results in the immediate present.

ST: I’d say the U-20 World Cup in 2009. Other than a draw against Uruguay, we won all our matches. It was a challenge to stay at the same high level. In contrast, here we had difficulties to begin with, and we got off to a strange start. But I’ve enjoyed that too – it’s just different. Some other teams have already reached their peak and are on the way down again. In our case, we’re getting stronger and stronger. We need to maintain and control that progress, and we’ll see how that works out against Chile.

 

The goal is to make sure that, later on, they’re strong enough mentally to get through the difficult moments that inevitably come.
John Obuh on the importance of a player’s psychological development

In a tournament like this, do you let your players go out and make the most of being in the host country, or do you prefer to keep a close eye on them?
ST: It depends. You need a little of both. I want my players to be happy – that’s fundamental. They need to enjoy themselves, but everything has to be in moderation. They need a leader – me – because that’s how you get the best out of them. The relationship between players and coach is very important.

JO: You need to understand that the African mentality isn’t similar to the European one. Our boys might be distracted by certain things, which isn’t necessarily the case with European players. Because of that, you have to try to keep them focused for the duration of the tournament. Of course, we let them go out from time to time as a group, to also create a good atmosphere and give them a little freedom. We didn’t do it too often, though, as that doesn’t work well with the African mentality.

At this level, do you think it is more important for the players to develop psychologically or to improve their football?
JO: The psychological aspect is crucial and that’s what you can have the most influence on. The goal is to make sure that, later on, they’re strong enough mentally to get through the difficult moments that inevitably come. This is the best time to talk to them, explain this crucial side of football and make them understand that everything is linked: you have to be strong in your mind as well as physically fit.

ST: Both aspects count. What’s great when you work with youngsters is the satisfaction you get from watching them grow and transform. Some of my former players still come to see me and that fills me with joy.

 

They’ve learned that in football nothing is ever over until the final whistle. That’s an important lesson.
Sellas Tetteh on what he believes his Ghana team have learned

Are there differences between African, South American and European teams at this age, and if so what are they?
ST: Elsewhere, development is fundamental. In Africa, we’re not quite there yet and that makes things more difficult. But we’re determined. We can battle and we’re passionate, but sometimes I get the impression that African players don’t have the same tactical instincts. If they get the chance to go and play in Europe, though, their passion and determination combined with the collective discipline there makes for a wonderful cocktail.

JO: For me, there are a lot of differences. African players have technical qualities, there’s no doubt about that, but they lack collective discipline. That’s something that’s tough to teach them because they believe so much in their own personal talent – too much, in fact, because you see matches where the individual takes precedence over the team. European sides are more respectful of the instructions they get and, as a result, they obey the tactics decided on at the start until the end of the game.

You both played the game yourselves. Has that helped you to be better coaches?
JO: If you played at a certain level, there’s no question that it helps you become a coach. It’s like a child who watches his dad and tries to take something on board that’ll help him grow; later on, that child will try to pass on his own knowledge and experience.

ST: Absolutely. I remember very well what my coaches said to me and I pass that on to my boys in my own way. Sometimes I say to my team: “What I’m saying to you now is something I was taught 20 years ago.” But just because you were a good player doesn’t mean you’ll be a good coach. You need a lot of passion, humility and stamina.

What do you remember about playing together?
ST: Ah, he was a very talented guy, very powerful. Us Ghanaians used to go and play in Nigeria because it was our Eldorado at the time. We experienced some great moments together at Julius Berger – we really enjoyed ourselves a lot.

JO: He was one of the best midfielders of his era, a very good player. I was a forward and he gave me a lot of good passes, and it was a real pleasure to play together. Plus he’s still my friend, which is what matters most.

Iraqis enthralled by joyous impact

Baghdad and Trabzon are more than 1,000 km apart as the crow flies, but football has brought the Turkish Black Sea metropolis and the Iraqi capital much, much closer in spirit. Passion and enthusiasm are emanating from the host nation of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 all the way to the Persian Gulf. Iraq has suffered much in recent years and times are still hard, but the nation has gratefully received the ray of light provided by their young footballing heroes, who are through to the semi-finals at the tournament for the first time, and have emerged as an authentic surprise package.

The team coached by Hakeem Shakir appear utterly focused and determined, shutting out the attractions of lively Trabzon as they prepare meticulously for Wednesday evening’s showdown with Uruguay at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium. The players are refusing to contemplate anything other than football, and they are utterly committed to the cause. One more victory, and they would be through to the final.

“We want to continue our run at this tournament, because we now have only one target, winning the World Cup,” declared defender Ali Adnan. “Our recent results and performances have proved Iraqi football is still very good, and that we have reserves of talent in our country,” he added. And that isn’t all, because in the wake of a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Korea Republic in the last eight, the Turkish public has taken the Iraqis to their hearts, and they have also become overnight stars at home.

After Shakir’s side overcame their long-term Asian rivals from the Far East, people took to the streets in Iraqi cities, dancing and celebrating into the night. For a few hours, it was possible to forget the struggles of daily life. No-one came close to predicting the explosive performances put in by the young Iraqi starlets at the tournament, but it has made their fellow countryman proud and happy.

Farhan Shakor, who has three goals in Turkey so far, made no secret of his delight: “Our game against South Korea was the best thing I’ve experienced in my career so far. We want to dedicate this victory to the Iraqi people, because we owe them so much. If it wasn’t for them, we’d never have come this far. I’m overjoyed, because I was part of a triumph which has made every Iraqi happy.”



 
We want to dedicate this victory to the Iraqi people, because we owe them so much. If it wasn’t for them, we’d never have come this far.

Farhan Shakor on Iraq’s penalty shootout win over Korea Republic

Shakor is still only 17 and arrived for the finals as a squad player, but he has emerged as a key member of the team. The FC Sulaymaniya striker converted the decisive penalty against Korea Republic and also put away the extra-time winner to seal a 1-0 victory over Paraguay in the last sixteen. Only Hussain Said Muhammad previously scored three for Iraq at a FIFA U-20 World Cup, back at the inaugural edition in Tunisia in 1977. His successor Shakor is by no means the only man so conscious of the significance of the current winning run.


“I’d love to be in Baghdad right now, experiencing the whole thing live,” commented coach Shakir after the victory over the South Koreans, as he visualised the frenzied celebrations in the capital. Keeper Mohammed Hameed explained the reasons behind the party atmosphere: “It’s like a public festival for us. We’ve done magnificent things for the image of our country. I’m certain that what we’re experiencing in Turkey at the moment will open all kinds of doors.”


Only one Iraqi team has ever made it as far as the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament in the past, when the men’s team made the last four at the Olympic Football Tournament in 2004. Furthermore, Shakir’s side are the first Asian team to come within one match of the final at a FIFA U-20 World Cup since Japan in 1999.


Of course, the achievement already being what it is, it might be tempting to lose focus on the forthcoming clash with La Celeste. Not so this Iraq squad. Their euphoria quickly gave way to focus and complete attention on the task against Uruguay. “They’re one of the best teams in South America, maybe even the best. It’ll be tough, but I’m utterly convinced we’ll make the final,” declared coach Shakir. “We’re not scared,” added defender Adnan, “we scored three goals against South Korea, and we have enough potential to allow ourselves a dream of the final.” He put into words what millions of his fellow countrymen are now thinking, people who are more than 1,000 km away, and yet somehow so close.Iraqis enthralled by joyous impact

Vote for goal of the tournament

The FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 has enjoyed countless extraordinary moments but, as is often the case, it is the goals that have caused most excitement among the fans in the stands.

FIFA.com has selected the best goals of the tournament and now it is over to you to vote for the winner. From 13 July until midday on 17 July, you have the chance to decide which strike was a cut above the rest.

You can watch videos of all of the ten best goals from Turkey 2013 by clicking on the link to the right. Once you have chosen your favourite, click on ‘Vote’ and we will announce the winner shortly after the deadline.

France claim maiden U-20 crown

Fully in line with the official slogan, ‘Building bridges for future stars’, a high-quality FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 threw the global spotlight on a number of teams and a host of talented players. The broadest smiles at the end were on French faces, as Les Bleuets claimed the U-20 crown for the first time after a nail-biting victory in the final. It also means France are the first nation to win all five FIFA tournaments in men’s 11-a-side international football.

After normal and extra time failed to produce a goal in the final, a 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay meant it was France captain Paul Pogba who hoisted the most prestigious trophy in junior football into the Istanbul night sky. In the match for third place, 2009 winners Ghana overcame surprise packages Iraq 3-0 and went home with the consolation prize of bronze. The top four places at the finals were thus filled by teams from four different confederations.

Tight contests, quality football
Overall, the tournament was as tight and evenly-matched as seldom before, partly due to some notable absentees. Argentina, the most successful nation at this age group, holders Brazil, and European heavyweights Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all failed to qualify.

During the finals, fancied trio Spain, Portugal and Colombia were eliminated prior to the semi-finals. In the knockout stage, no fewer than four matches were decided on penalties, with seven games going to extra time. Overall, 33 of the 52 matches either ended in stalemate after 90 minutes or with the sides only a single goal apart.

“We’ve seen some tremendous games. The teams have laid on fantastic football with last-minute goals and penalty shoot-outs,” reflected Jim Boyce, chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. “The coaching staff have definitely encouraged their players to put on a show for the fans and play great football. It means football is the big winner at this World Cup. The quality was very high,” he summarised.


Starlets favour attack over defence
In general, the crowds were treated to attractive attacking football and goals galore. The games in the seven host cities of Antalya, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Kayseri, Rize and Trabzon produced a total of 152 goals, the fourth highest total since the expansion of the starting field to 24 teams: the players were only more prolific at Egypt 2009 (167 goals), Malaysia 1997 (165) and Nigeria 1999 (158).

The adidas Golden Boot for the top scorer went to six-goal Ghana striker Ebenezer Assifuah, with the adidas Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper won by Uruguay‘s Guillermo De Amores, who was only beaten three times in the entire tournament.

However, the standout personality at the finals was Pogba. The French schemer, strong in the tackle and boasting exceptional stamina, displayed a remarkable ability to read the play and dictate the pace. He led his team-mates from the front, and was first to get them back on their feet after mishaps.

The midfield general in the making impressively spearheaded Les Bleuets’ march to the trophy, earning Pogba the adidas Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament. “I’m really happy. We’re all delighted it’s ended this way. It’s exceptional,” the player told FIFA.com immediately after the final.


Thrilling stories, indelible memories
Coach Pierre Mankowski’s young French team emerged as the most disciplined and mature of all 24 contenders in Turkey, combining physical robustness with superb individuals in the wide positions. The French made a modest start with a draw against USA and defeat to Spain in their group, but improved with every passing match after that, finding an extra gear at the start of the knockout stage and binding their strong individuals into a tight unit.

As a whole, the tournament was characterised by no end of stories and anecdotes. Ghana, urged on by their ever-present, colourful and raucous fans, earned themselves the label of ‘comeback kings’ after starting with back-to-back defeats and ultimately sneaking into the Round of 16 as the fourth-best of the third-placed teams in the group stage. Having made the knockout rounds, they came from behind to beat Portugal 3-2, before doing exactly the same against Chile in a thrilling 4-3 extra-time victory.


Surprise packages defy expectations
Iraq‘s performance will also go down in the history books, as they reached the semi-finals at the tournament for the first time thanks to their abundant skill, tireless running and tactical flexibility. Furthermore, their uncompromisingly direct attacking style won the hearts of the Turkish public, and also prompted an outbreak of joyful celebration back home. Together with the unexpectedly strong Uzbeks and a well-drilled Korea Republic, they formed a trio of Asian representatives in the last eight, defying most pundits’ pre-tournament predictions.

Among many surprise results, one of the biggest was South American champions Colombia losing on penalties to the South Koreans in the first knockout round. It meant an premature farewell to prodigiously gifted playmaker Juan Quintero, already a classy footballer and glorious proof that the classic ‘No10’ role has not entirely vanished from the present-day game, and might even be set for a renaissance.


Strong South Americans
As for Spain, their outstanding strikeforce led by Jese Rodriguez and Gerard Deulofeu ran up against the brick wall of Uruguay‘s unyielding defence; the European giants were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The Portuguese and five-goal Bruma lost to Ghana a round earlier, while hosts Turkey also fell at the first knockout hurdle. Driven on by their frenetic home fans, the local heroes did defeat El Salvador and Australia in their group, but were ultimately outclassed by eventual champions France in the last 16.

It was left to Uruguay to uphold South American pride at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, as CONMEBOL supplied a finalist for the seventh time in a row – it had always been Brazil or Argentina in the past. However, despite their near-impenetrable back four complemented by the individual class of skilled duo Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Nicolas Lopez, La Celeste ultimately fell by the tightest possible margin to Pogba and company.

The nerve-shredding shootout provided a final highlight but somehow also an appropriate end to an exceptionally close, high-quality and evenly-matched junior tournament.


Teams

Australia, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Ghana, Greece, Iraq, , Korea Republic, Mali, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Uruguay, USA, Uzbekistan.

Final Ranking

1. France
2. Uruguay
3. Ghana
4. IraqHost cities and Stadiums
Antalya (Akdeniz University Stadium), Bursa (Ataturk Stadium), Gaziantep (Kamil Ocak Stadium), Istanbul (Ali Sami Yen Arena), Kayseri (Kadir Has Stadium), Rize (Yeni Sehir Stadium), Trabzon (Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium)

Goals
152 (average of 2.92 per game)

Top Goalscorers
Ebenezer Assifuah (Ghana) – 6
Bruma (Portugal) – 5
Jese (Spain) – 5

Awards
adidas Golden Ball: Paul Pogba (France)
adidas Golden Boot: Ebenezer Assifuah (Ghana)
adidas Golden Glove: Guillermo De Amores (Uruguay)

FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 Host Cities unveiled

The Host Cities for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 were announced at a media event held at the Maritime Museum in Auckland (New Zealand) today in the presence of John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Dave Beeche, CEO of the LOC for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015, and Frank van Hattum, President of New Zealand Football Inc.

The seven Host Cities and stadiums named today are: Auckland (North Harbour Stadium), Christchurch (Christchurch Stadium), Dunedin (Otago Stadium), Hamilton (Waikato Stadium), New Plymouth (Stadium Taranaki), Wellington (Wellington Regional Stadium) and Whangarei (Northland Event Centre).

The FIFA U-20 World Cup – FIFA’s second-biggest men’s tournament – will be held on Oceanian soil for the third time after Australia hosted the competition in 1981 and 1993. The event will take place from 30 May to 21 June 2015.

FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter said: “New Zealand hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1999 and the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008 and enjoys a proud history of successfully hosting FIFA events. Bringing the FIFA U-20 World Cup to this sports-loving country will for sure enhance the image and popularity of the beautiful game in New Zealand. The Host Cities play an essential role in delivering a FIFA competition and I am pleased to see that football fans in cities across the whole country will have the chance to become a part of it.”

Dave Beeche, CEO of the LOC for FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015, was full of praise for all of the cities that were involved in the bidding process.

“To have seven stunning venues locked in nearly two years out from the first match gives us a great planning time-frame and we’ll use all of it to ensure that a stand-out event is delivered. This tournament has a huge global following and that’s the opportunity we have with this event – to deliver exposure for New Zealand and host regions both directly during the tournament and via a massive international television audience. With the world’s best footballing talent on display and stadiums full of colour, noise and atmosphere, it will be a new experience for New Zealand that everyone will want to be a part of,” said Beeche.

New Zealand will take over as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup from Turkey, who organised this year’s edition of the event from 21 June to 13 July.

Season review: Georgia

After Dušan Uhrin Jr left for FC Viktoria Plzeň midway through the season, 38-year-old Malkhaz Zhvania took the reins at FC Dinamo Tbilisi and finished what his Czech predecessor had started by guiding the club to their second straight domestic double. That is something only Dinamo themselves had managed before, in 1997; indeed, it was the first time in 15 years the Georgian champions had defended their crown.

Champions: FC Dinamo Tbilisi
Like most captivating stories, Dinamo’s campaign had three acts. The first one, under Uhrin Jr, brought 36 points in 15 matches. Zhvania took over in December and the theme of success continued – by the end of March, victory over second-placed FC Zestafoni established an 11-point lead at the summit. There were eight games to go and complacency set in. The next six outings yielded just eight points, including a 3-2 loss to Zestafoni, and suddenly Dinamo were looking over their shoulders. They got over the line with one match to spare, though it was not enough to save Zhvania’s job. “We were 11 points ahead at one point and our players got sloppy,” he admitted.

©Badri KetiladzeDinamo after their cup success

Cup final: FC Dinamo Tbilisi 2-1 FC Chikhura Sachkhere
It was a campaign of stark contrasts for Chikhura. They went into the winter break second in the Premier League, with December’s Georgian Super Cup secured, before going into freefall in the spring. Nine defeats in 13 league outings left them fourth, though Samson Pruidze’s team at least maintained their form in the Georgian Cup as they reached a second successive final. When Dinamo were reduced to ten men midway through the first half hope grew, even if Xisco Muñoz did break the deadlock. Giorgi Datunaishvili equalised, only for Otar Martsvaladze to seal a 2-1 win. Dinamo captain and goalkeeper Giorgi Loria said: “It was a very difficult game, but we managed to win and claim the domestic double. I am happy this season has turned out to be so successful.”

European places*
FC Dinamo Tbilisi – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
FC Zestafoni – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
FC Sioni Bolnisi – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FC Chikhura Sachkhere – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Giorgi Loria (FC Dinamo Tbilisi)
There has not been an official award yet, but it will be difficult to look past Loria when the time comes. While Xisco was top scorer for the second season running at one end, Loria kept things tight at the other, mustering 14 clean sheets in 30 league outings. Approaching ten years at the club, the 28-year-old has made 171 appearances for Dinamo – a post-independence record for a goalkeeper.

One to watch: Otar Kvernadze (FC Torpedo Kutaisi)
While a number of Torpedo’s best players switched to Zestafoni during the winter, former Torpedo and FC Zenit goalkeeper Mikheil Kvernadze’s son moved in the opposite direction. Tall and skilful, the forward registered seven league goals to help Torpedo finish seventh. In May’s 6-1 defeat of FC WIT Georgia, the 20-year-old became the first player to hit four goals in a Georgian top-flight match in five years.

Surprise package: FC Zestafoni
When Gia Geguchadze replaced Ratko Dostanić at the Zestafoni helm after 11 games, the club had just 15 points and slender hopes of qualifying for the top-six play-offs. After a steady start, they won seven in a row either side of the winter break, without conceding a single goal, and almost gave stuttering Dinamo the fright of their lives as they closed in on the summit. Second was nonetheless an impressive return for a club that marks its tenth anniversary on 18 June.

Leading scorer: Xisco Muñoz, FC Dinamo Tbilisi (19)

Relegated**: FC Zugdidi, FC Merani Martvili

Promoted**: FC Shukura Kobuleti, FC Kolkheti Poti

**Subject to final confirmation

Number: 0
The only zero in the final standings was in the draw column for all-or-nothing FC Guria Lanchkhuti. Back among the elite after 11 years away, Guria made a mark as giant-slayers and were third at one point; having secured a top-six place, though, they lost ten in a row. David Makharadze’s men returned to winning ways on the last day of term and so maintained their zero tolerance towards draws – as, coincidentally, they had done 18 years ago.

Quote
“I would not advise any coach to look at a player’s passport. We proved that it was too early to write off the Sioni players that other clubs rejected because of their age.”
Sioni Bolnisi coach Lado Burduli after his side, featuring 13 players over 30, won seven matches in a row and finished in the top three for the first time in eight years