Serbia lifted the most coveted trophy in youth football into the night skies above Auckland after sealing a thrilling extra-time victory over Brazil at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015. Mali had earlier secured third place thanks in large part to the attacking prowess of Adama Traore, who won the adidas Golden Ball for his efforts. Meanwhile Ukraine’s Viktor Kovalenko was awarded the Golden Boot and Serbian goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic received the Golden Glove. FIFA.com presents the award winners.
adidas Golden Ball: Adama Traore (Mali)
It has been a joy to watch this young man play in New Zealand. There is no doubt that Mali’s technically outstanding, highly intelligent midfielder has shaped his team’s play, distributing balls, setting the tempo and providing structure to the African side’s build-up play. Although Traore generally moved through the centre of the pitch, he also mixed things up by making the occasional run down the wing. The 19-year-old Lille player’s four goals and three assists played a major part in making Mali the surprise package and crowd favourites of these finals and earned him the well-deserved accolade of player of the tournament.
adidas Silver Ball: Danilo (Brazil)
It quickly became apparent to anyone watching A Seleção’s captain in New Zealand that he was the man in charge. The 19-year-old barked instructions, made clear gestures and continually pushed his team-mates forward with total determination. The defensive midfielder’s tackling skills and relentless energy made him the ideal man to switch Brazil’s play, tirelessly maintaining the link between defence and attack. Danilo steered the runners-up through the competition with his experience and strong leadership skills, captivating crowds with his physical dominance and tactical awareness. The Braga player even scored a masterful header in his side’s 2-1 group stage win over Hungary.
adidas Bronze Ball: Sergej Milinkovic
With a strong aerial presence, tackling skills and remarkable pace for his size, this 6’3” Serbian posed a threat wherever he appeared. The newly crowned world champions also relied on the cleverness of Milinkovic, who plays for Belgian top-flight side Genk. Although the 20-year-old only found the net twice, he made a vital contribution to many of the penalty box threats posed by coach Veljko Paunovic’s team during the tournament.
adidas Golden Boot: Viktor Kovalenko (Ukraine) - 5 goals, 2 assists
The 19-year-old striker brought worry lines to the forehead of many an opposition goalkeeper in New Zealand. His five goals and two assists in just four matches ensured that Ukraine could only be eliminated in the Round of 16 after a thrilling penalty shoot-out against Senegal. His flawless hat-trick in the second half of the 3-0 win against the USA was undoubtedly one of the highlights of this competition, and his tally was ultimately enough to win him the adidas Golden Boot. With his explosive speed and unfussy ability to find the most direct route to goal, it seems highly likely that we will hear plenty more about Kovalenko in the future.
adidas Silver Boot: Bence Mervo (Hungary) – 5 goals, 0 assists
Hungary’s No9 was the first player to leave his mark on these finals, netting a hat-trick in his side’s 5-1 opening win over Korea DPR after coach Bernd Storck moved him from the wing to spearhead the attack. The 20-year-old, who plays for Gyori ETO in his homeland, scored a total of five strikes in four matches, proving that he is best able to use his exceptional eye for goal and cool head inside the opposition penalty box. Kovalenko’s extra assists were the only reason Mervo had to content himself with the adidas Silver Boot instead of the top prize.
adidas Bronze Boot: Marc Stendera (Germany) – 4 goals, 3 assists
The German playmaker, who plays for Bundesliga team Eintracht Frankfurt, sparked ecstasy in New Zealand. Providing constant support and always ready to make a run behind the back line, Stendera proved to be the thinker and leader of Frank Wormuth’s side. The 19-year-old also took care of almost all of his team’s set-pieces, scoring a total of four goals (including two converted penalties) and contributing three assists at the finals. The competition ended in frustration for the midfield playmaker and his team-mates after he was substituted with an injury just ten minutes into their quarter-final against Mali – a match they ultimately lost on penalties.
adidas Golden Glove: Predrag Rajkovic (Serbia)
Thanks to his remarkable reflexes and excellent ability to dominate the penalty area, the 19-year-old Crvena Zvezda goalkeeper was an unwavering source of support and the true pillar for the U-20 World Cup winners in New Zealand. Rajkovic conceded just four goals in seven matches, denying opposition strikers with a string of spectacular saves. He further reinforced his importance for coach Veljko Paunovic’s side by issuing noisy commands from the back and constantly urging his team-mates to push forward. Despite his youth, Serbia’s U-20 captain is already a real personality – and now a world champion too.
FIFA Fair Play Award: Ukraine
The Ukrainians won over fans in New Zealand by combining attractive, attacking play with a sportsmanlike approach to the game, picking up just five yellow cards and committing 59 fouls in four matches. As a result they are the deserving recipients of the FIFA Fair Play Award.