- FIFA.com sits down with U-20 World Cup final captains
- Venezuela’s Yangel Herrera reveals exceptional story behind semi-final goal
- England’s Lewis Cook: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity”
With almost 80 hours of football behind us, the question of who will lift the FIFA U-20 World Cup title could be answered in as little as 90 minutes away.
On Sunday, Venezuela and England go head to head to see who will be crowned champion at Korea Republic 2017, with both set to step out in their first ever final at this level.
Suwon World Cup Stadium is all set for a fevered climax to the tournament, with England’s Lewis Cook and Yangel Herrera of Venezuela set to lead both sides out sporting the captain’s armbands in the competition’s crescendo. With both getting their first taste of World Cup football on the Asian peninsula, it past three weeks have left their mark on them.
“It’s been an incredible experience from start to finish. Even getting picked for the World cup is massive and the lads getting this far is a great achievement,” Cook told FIFA.com.
“[The final] is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ve got to try and grasp that and really embrace it. You have got to enjoy these moments; they don’t happen a lot in your career.”
Standing on the other side of the tunnel will be Herrera. “We have worked hard for this,” the midfielder explained. “This group of players has given everything to get here, to travel this beautiful road during this beautiful tournament and this team is here thanks to the belief it has had.”
Hard work alone may not have helped them reach the climax, though, in Herrera’s eyes, as their stunning stoppage time equaliser from Samuel Sosa came about in exceptional circumstances. “There was some controversy over who was taking the free-kick,” he explained.
Coach Raphael Dudamel had ear-marked Sosa for the last-second effort, but key playmaker Adalberto Penaranda had his eyes on it, too. “Penaranda would not listen to what [Dudamel] said and I also shouted at him to leave it to [Sosa]. But Penaranda told him not to touch the ball and Samuel was resigned to not shooting.
“I do not know what happened to Penaranda but he beckoned to Samuel with his head that he shoot at the last moment.” The result was emphatic, sending them towards a shootout with Uruguay and, ultimately, Suwon. “I think that more than anything, it is God who was with us at that time, who wanted us to go to the grand finale.”
Cook’s crowning moment came much earlier, on matchday one against Argentina. “It was a big game, the first one,” the Bournemouth man said. “To beat them 3-0 was a massive boost as you always need one of those games where you maybe didn’t play at your best [and win]. That really pushed us on to top the group and get to where we are now."
But all that came before counts for little now. Both captains know that history is within their grasp on Sunday.