‘Good things come to those who wait’ is a fitting adage when considering fans of England’s U-20 side. Five FIFA U-20 World Cups and 20 years have come and gone with nothing more than a handful points to their name, seeing each win column adorned bearing a demoralising zero.
In kicking off Korea Republic 2017, the Three Lions could not have bucked what has become a record-breaking trend in a more satisfying manner. Not only did they walk away with three points – and an impressive 3-0 scoreline – but they were earned against long-standing rivals Argentina.
There is also some enjoyment to be had in the small narratives that football sometimes provides. La Albiceleste were the very team who set them on their way to 17-successive games without a win, back in 1997’s Round of 16.
“Argentina had an outstanding side,” England’s Michael Owen reflected with FIFA.com on that 2-1 defeat in Malaysia. “I remember [Juan Roman] Riquelme and [Pablo] Aimar being particularly impressive, and everyone knows the kind of careers those guys went on to have.”
While we are yet to know whether any of the South Americans on show today will replicate their impressive forbearers’ careers, there were plenty of potential glimpses of starlight in the England side. One being Everton’s Kieran Dowell – who was not even born when Owen secured their last victory, beating Mexico 1-0 on 23 June 1997.
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) May 20, 2017
Architect of England’s opening pair, the first coming after withstanding an onslaught from Argentina, the wide-man was unaware that he had help wipe disperse two decades of frustration at the final whistle. “Even if we’d known we wouldn’t have been worried about that,” he replied after FIFA.com put the win into historical context.
“It’s just about getting a win in this tournament, the ones from the past don’t matter. It’s all about our age group and what we do this year.”
It truly was an emphatic way to announce their intentions, as Toffees team-mate Dominic Calvert-Lewin thumped home a diving header to open the scoring, before Adam Armstrong put them in control after the break. “We’re really good mates off the pitch too and on it, I knew he was going to be there at the back post,” he explained.
“We speak about it all the time, we know what each other are good at, so I knew he was going to be there and luckily he got on the end of it, then Armstrong has made a great run down the side and all I’ve had to do is slip him in.”
Next on the agenda is a clash with Guinea who, having similarly tasted a 3-0 defeat, will be desperate to take qualification back into their own hands. But for Dowell, his assessment of where they stand was succinct and to the point. “No goals conceded, three goals scored; it’s looking good.”
England fans will just be hoping it is not 2037 by the time they get their next three points on the board.
Great 3-0 win vs Argentina today.. Perfect start to the World Cup pic.twitter.com/ldwa8qR7Yl
— Kieran Dowell (@kierandowell1) May 20, 2017