- Ecuador and Ukraine in uncharted territory
- Pinamonti and Sikan razor sharp in knockouts
- Will Italian youngsters follow in senior’s footsteps?
A first-time winner is guaranteed on 15 June as the four sides left in contention at Poland 2019 all go in search of a maiden FIFA U-20 World Cup triumph.
The absence of footballing giants, such as France, Argentina and Portugal, gives the semi-final line-up a somewhat surprising complexion. Ukraine have made the biggest impression in reaching the last four, considerably improving on their previous best showing – the Round of 16, where their hopes were dashed on three previous occasions. Despite Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin being called up to the senior squad before their quarter-final, Ukraine refused to buckle and prevailed 1-0 against Colombia.
The Ukrainians' next challenge, against an Italian side improving by the game, looks to be tougher still. Gli Azzurrini have yet to win a world title at this level but will be keen to rectify that in the coming days and can take inspiration from the illustrious history of their senior counterparts on the global stage.
Ecuador versus Korea Republic looks impossible to call. The South Americans, who would dearly love to add the World Cup to their continental triumph, struggled to get going at the group stage but are now firmly in their stride. Prior to Poland 2019, their previous best finish in this competition was the Round of 16. The semi-final, however, is not where La Tri want their journey to end – as confirmed by midfielder Jose Cifuentes, who told FIFA.com his side have not given up on their dream.
Korea Republic have ambitions of their own, thanks in no small part to Lee Kangin, who has blossomed into one of the stars of the tournament. The Valencia man has had a big influence on every match, and nobody would bet against him doing the same in the last four. The Taeguk Warriors are guaranteed to at least match their best-ever showing of fourth in 1983, but now have their sights set on making history.
11 June, local time
Ukraine-Italy (Gdynia, 17:30)
Ecuador-Korea Republic (Lublin, 20:30)
What you need to know
"I knew our team could go this far. Our young players have had the opportunity to get good experiences, and they’ve been able to build self-confidence. And that contributes to success in these situations. The organisation of this team could not be achieved overnight. It took two years. That is why I looked for equality and mental strength in all my players."
Korea Republic coach Chung Jungyong
“Before the World Cup, when I thought about the competition, I dreamt of winning it. And that dream is still alive, still real. We have lots of motivation. We’re playing for ourselves, our families and Ukraine.”
Ukraine forward Danylo Sikan
Players to watch
Andrea Pinamonti (Italy)
The Italian front man has improved with every match. In the group stage the youngster only netted against Ecuador, but has added another three to his tally with one against Poland and a brace against Mali. His panenka penalty against the hosts secured his side’s passage to the last eight, and he also converted from the spot in Italy’s quarter-final win.
Danylo Sikan (Ukraine)
Just like Pinamonti, Sikan has come alive in front of goal in the knockout rounds after only scoring once in the group phase. After bagging two against Panama in the Round of 16, the Ukrainian scored the only goal of the game against Colombia, a strike he described as the biggest of his career to date.