First-time finalists soar closer to glory
Ukraine extinguish Italy attack in first semi-final
Energetic Korea Republic edge Ecuador
Ukraine-Korea Republic final tapped for 15 June in Lodz
THE DAY REPLAYED – After a pair of hotly contested semi-finals, just two teams are left standing to battle for the top spot at Poland 2019. First-time finalists Ukraine and Korea Republic will meet in Lodz on Saturday to determine the next FIFA U-20 World Cup champion.
The Ukrainians proved unbreakable for captain Andrea Pinamonti and the Italian attack. A tense opening period gave way to both sides generating more scoring opportunities in the second half. As they've done time and again in Poland, Ukraine took advantage of their opponents' attacking aggression; this time No10 Serhii Buletsa provided the finish in the 65th minute, and his side clamped down on a threatening Azzurrini bunch to advance 1-0.
Korea Republic came out pressing in the second semi-final, disrupting Ecuador's rhythm. Lee Kangin continued his sizzling form in the knockout rounds with a clever free-kick in the 39th minute, surprising La Tri by taking it quickly to catch Choi Jun in stride behind the defence. Jun curled his shot inside the far post to give the Taeguk Warriors a 1-0 lead they would not surrender.
Ukraine 1-0 Italy Ecuador 0-1 Korea Republic
Centre of attention: Two years after hosting the U-20 World Cup for the first time, Korea Republic have reached their first final. The Taeguk Warriors were eliminated by Portugal in the Round of 16 in 2017. The Portuguese bested Korea Republic again to open Poland 2019, but the finalists haven't been beaten since.
Feels like home: Ukraine have benefited from robust traveling support throughout their Poland excursion, which isn't surprising given their shared border with the host country. But that feeling of belonging was amplified at the Gdynia Stadium by the yellow and blue seats, which happen to be the colours of local club Arka Gdynia.
Whirlwind week: Real Madrid talent Andriy Lunin missed Ukraine's quarter-final win over Colombia after being called into the senior squad for the UEFA European Championship qualifiers. Lunin watched from the bench as Ukraine defeated Serbia 5-0 and Luxembourg 1-0, then returned to Poland and kept a clean sheet for the U-20s in their semi-final triumph.
“I’m very satisfied with my players and what they did today. We have worked very hard to perform in this tournament, and I am very proud of the way they handled this game.” Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov
“In my opinion, our team did not deserve to lose. But you have to accept the result even if it doesn’t reflect the performance.” Italy coach Paolo Nicolato
Third place play-off, Friday 14 June Italy-Ecuador (Gdynia, 20:30 local time)
Final, Saturday 15 June Ukraine-Korea Republic (Lodz, 18:00 local time)