- Ukraine on top of the world
- A team without stars but full of talent
- How they conquered Poland 2019
In defeating Korea Republic 3-1 in the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019, Ukraine achieved one of the greatest feats in the nation’s footballing history. FIFA.com looks at the key factors behind the new world champions’ success.
'No real stars'
Oleksandr Petrakov hammered home the point at any opportunity during the tournament: “There are no stars in this team. The star is the team.” The Ukraine coach’s philosophy was applied to the letter by his players, who battled together all over the pitch in order to create one of the greatest surprises in the history of the tournament.
This collective mindset was ever-present during press interviews, when the Ukrainians would talk about the contributions of their team-mates whenever they were asked a question relating to individual performances.
While the Ukrainians were unwilling to accept individual acclaim, there is little doubt that several of their players distinguished themselves during Poland 2019.
- Andriy Lunin: In conceding just four goals at the tournament, the composed goalkeeper showed why Real Madrid had him sign on the dotted line in 2018.
- Serhii Buletsa: Winner of the adidas Silver Ball, the influential No10 was involved in practically all of Ukraine’s incisive moves, scoring three times and recording two assists.
- Yukhym Konoplia: The impressive right-back demonstrated how useful he was at both ends of the field, putting in fine defensive performances but also striding forward to great effect to set up four goals, including one in the final.
- Danylo Sikan: The striker showed how ruthless a finisher he was almost every time he was called upon, hitting the net four times in total.
- Vladyslav Supriaha: A substitute for the entire event, he took full advantage of his first start by scoring a clinical brace in the final.
I am so happy. I don’t know what to say. Maybe I still have not fully realised what we achieved. It was the most important game in my life. I already got a call from the Ukraine president, who congratulated us. I have been working with these boys for five years, and I am proud. It will be very tough to say goodbye to them.
Ukraine trailed in just one match at Poland 2019, and it was the final. They never fell behind in the group stage or the knockout rounds until Lee Kangin's fifth-minute penalty at the Lodz Stadium. Though they faced an unfamiliar challenge, the Ukrainians were undaunted, scoring three unanswered goals to claim the crown.
One of the secrets to the newly crowned champions’ success was their time spent together as a group.
“Valerii Bondar has been with me for five years,” said Petrakov, referring to his captain. “We started off on this adventure with players born in 1999, then 2000 and then 2001. Other coaches understand how meaningful it is to work with these players for five years. Now I have to say goodbye to them.”