It was arguably a fitting end to a tournament that has seen so many games go right down to the wire, and a couple of superb penalty saves were the difference between two sides who gave their all.
Earlier on, Ghana ended the tournament in third-place, thanks to a 3-0 win over Iraq that sends them home with a bronze medal around their necks. That win ultimately ended the Middle Eastern side's hopes of their greatest ever showing at a FIFA tournament, having to be content with matching their performance at the Olympics in 2004 – but it remains their best-ever FIFA U-20 World Cup.
There was also some individual joy and consolation for the likes of Paul Pogba, Ebenezer Assifuah and Guillermo De Amores, as they each won the adidas Golden Ball, adidas Golden Boot and adidas Golden Glove.
The Awesome A-Team
FIFA U-20 World Cup final day looked to be an evening that was tailor-made for those whose name's appear at the top of the alphabetical team sheets. While Ghana's day was initially buoyed by the goal-scoring alpha-trio of Attamah, Acheampong and Assifuah, the latter's day improved further by acquiring the adidas Golden Boot. There were astonishing performances from A-Class shot-stoppers at either end of the final too. Guillermo De Amores was named the winner of the adidas Golden Glove, while Alphonse Areola produced two astounding penalties in the final on the way to victory. There was even added joy for Axel Ngando, as he scored in the shootout to help France be crowned champions, and all on his 20th birthday!
Assifuah's golden goal
Beginning the day third in pursuit of the top scorers-crown, Assifuah knew he had the chance to depart from Turkey 2013 with some gold in his luggage, what with trailing Portugal's Bruma and Spain's Jese only on assists. Following their semi-final defeat to France, Assifuah told FIFA.com he was hopeful he would have the opportunity to pull clear. “Hopefully my team-mates will remember to think of me when we get near the opposing goal, while I'll obviously be trying to create my own opportunities out there too,” he said. Against Iraq it was the latter option that earned him his sixth goal and the adidas Golden Boot. Dragging the ball past the defence with his left-foot and a burst of pace, he then drilled an inch-perfect shot with his right into the bottom corner of Mohammed Hameed's goal. A strike worthy of claiming any title.
Everywhere you looked around the Ali Sami Yen Arena there were signs that the future might be written in the stars, or at least those involved were trying to shift the odds a little in their favour. Whatever the case, the superstitious fans in the crowd certainly had a lot to draw added hope from – though only some signs could eventually bare fruit. For the final, France had never lost when the first team on the score-board – Spain 2-1 France their only loss – while Uruguay beat Uzbekistan 4-0 in the only time they have worn white at Turkey 2013. France also had Willy Sagnol in the stands, who played in the pairs only other FIFA U-20 World Cup meeting in 1997, where Uruguay won on penalties. In the match for third place meanwhile, both coaches saw fit to dress in the exact same outfits as during their semi-final defeats – maybe thinking no shirt can be unlucky twice? While Assifuah hopped onto the field on his right foot – a ritual he has done throughout his career – to bring himself that extra bit of luck in front of goal. As we now know, only some of those may have done the trick.
5 – France's victory has seen them create a little bit of extra-history, adding to their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup win, by becoming the first side ever to claim all five of FIFA's 11-a-side men's titles. Their latest triumph adds to their FIFA World Cup™ (1998), FIFA Confederation Cups (2001 and 2003), FIFA U-17 World Cup (2001) and Olympic gold medal (1984). They pip the likes of Argentina and Brazil to the claim the accolade, with the pair missing a FIFA U-17 World Cup and an Olympic Football Tournament win respectively.
“It has shone a light on the work in the French youth football, and the work done by all coaches. It’s a reward for this generation too; it’s important for the future of French football. They are world champion in their age category, but they will have a lot of hurdles to pass in the future. They had the potential to win that World Cup, and they achieved this, so I can only congratulate them.” Didier Deschamps, coach of France national team, speaking exclusively with FIFA.com.
Mucho orgullo lo que hicieron hoy ustedes! Dejaron todo en el partido por nuestro país. Para nosotros son campeones! Arriba Uruguay!
— Luis Suarez (@luis16suarez) July 13, 2013