England Under-20 coach Paul Simpson hailed his side’s achievements after they became the first Three Lions team to reach a World Cup final in 51 years.
England will play in their first-ever U-20 World Cup final after coming from behind to secure an impressive 3-1 semi-final victory over Italy in Jeonju.
Riccardo Orsolini put Italy ahead inside two minutes but England’s dominance eventually paid off as two goals from Liverpool-bound striker Dominic Solanke and an Ademola Lookman strike in the final 25 minutes secured their place in Sunday’s final against Venezuela.
Simpson could not hide his delight after seeing an England side reach a World Cup final over half-a-century after the likes of Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore famously managed it back in 1966.
He told Sky Sports News: “I thought the players were magnificent from goalkeeper right through to the guys who came off the bench.
“I thought everybody put in a performance that was worthy of winning any game of football and to win it in a World Cup semi-final against a team like Italy, it is a really, really big achievement.
“I have got to be honest with you, I don’t think there is an Englishman anywhere in the world that is as proud as I am this evening, I’m delighted with it.
“It’s massive. I’m 50 years old and it was ’66 since the last time England got to a World Cup final so it is an incredible achievement.”
England face a Venezuela side that needed penalties to see off Uruguay in their semi-final – after Samuel Sosa scored a fine stoppage-time free-kick to equalise – and Simpson feels his players will reap the rewards if they continue their rich vein of form.
“The players have just been relentless in their preparation and in their professionalism and they have done everything I could have ask. When we came here, we talked about getting that first win. It’s been 20 years since we have won a game at Under-20 World Cup competition so we needed to get that out of the way.
“They were the ones that told me when I started, I asked them the question: ‘What do you want to do this year?’ And they said: ‘We want to win the World Cup final.’ That was always their goal to do it.
“We’ve done that. We put ourselves in the final. The reward will come out on Sunday when we go out into a World Cup final but I have to say, the minute we got together on the field at the end of the game, our minds turned to preparing for Venezuela and going and doing the job against them and making sure that we do ourselves justice with our performance.”
Simpson also hailed the impact that Premier League clubs have played in providing quality players for his team and for giving chances to young English players at the highest level, with the former Newcastle assistant manager picking out Everton and Liverpool in particular.
He added: “Five of our boys are from Everton and two from Liverpool and if you add Dom (Solanke) in there when he joins in July then that’s three, so they (Premier League clubs) are providing it.
“We are not surprised with the performances they are putting out, they are real good football players, they are top players at this level. They are top players in the Premier League as well. People like Ade Lookman has had opportunities (at Everton) and Sheyi (Ojo) at Liverpool, who has had a few opportunities.”
The Young Lions boss dedicated the semi-final victory to the Football Association and is confident the future looks bright for the national team.
“I’m really pleased for everyone involved and delighted for the FA, they have invested a lot of money into these development teams and their reward is coming with eight of our teams have qualified for major finals this summer,” he added.
“We had the (Under) 17s going to the Euro finals and we are in the World Cup final so hopefully we can go one step further and come home with a trophy.”