How good is this England Under-20 side?

Dominic Solanke

England have reached the semi-finals of the Under-20 World Cup for the first time in 24 years.

They play Italy in South Korea on Thursday (12:00 BST) for a place in the final, with previous U20 sides having failed to win a single game at the tournament in the past two decades.

Out of the 1993 squad, which ultimately claimed third place, only four players went on to represent England at senior level. But many had successful top-flight careers, including a Premier League and Champions League winner.

Is this 2017 side a potential ‘golden generation’? Will they get their break in the Premier League? Are they the future England squad for the 2022 World Cup?

“There has been a determination about the players from the first day I met up with them,” manager Paul Simpson told BBC Sport.

“Yes they are delighted but they do not want to be satisfied with reaching the semi-finals. They want to go one step further and it means everything to this group, not only to put the Three Lions shirt on but to bring success.

“I need to keep them calm for the next game, they all know what it means to the group, the families and people back home.”

Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd added: “It is massive achievement to get into last four. They are resilient, the don’t know when they are beaten, they are a group that can score goals in a variety of ways.

“They are quick on the counter attack and technically gifted to build a goal, good in both boxes, have a terrific goalkeeper and a good team behind them on the staff. Paul Simpson understands and knows the game and getting the best out of the players.”

So who are they?

Goalkeepers: Freddie Woodman (Newcastle), Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Luke Southwood (Reading)

Defenders: Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham), Callum Connolly (Everton), Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), Ezri Konsa Ngoyo (Charlton)

Midfielders: Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Kieran Dowell (Everton), Josh Onomah (Tottenham), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal), Ovie Ejaria (Liverpool), Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool)

Forwards: Adam Armstrong (Newcastle), Ademola Lookman (Everton), Harrison Chapman (Middlesbrough), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea, joining Liverpool on 1 July)

Recent call-ups also include Tammy Abraham and Izzy Brown, who have moved on to the U21s, and Celtic’s treble-winning winger Patrick Roberts, who is injured.

Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson are other recent U20 players who have made Premier League appearances.

England U20s<!–

How much first-team football have they played?

Of the 21-man squad, 16 played senior league football this season, half of them on loan, while striker Adam Armstrong played for both loan club Barnsley and parent club Newcastle.

Everton forward Ademola Lookman also represented two sides this season, having joined the Toffees from Charlton for £11m in January.

Club league appearances 2016-17 season
Player Club Apps Starts Minutes
Dean Henderson Grimsby Town (loan) 7 7 630
Freddie Woodman Kilmarnock (loan) 14 14 1260
Jake Clarke-Salter Bristol Rovers (loan) 12 9 841
Callum Connolly Wigan Athletic (loan) 17 14 1302
Dael Fry Rotherham (loan) 10 10 900
Jonjoe Kenny Everton 1 0 12
Fikayo Tomori Brighton (loan) 9 2 390
Ezri Konsa Ngoyo Charlton 32 30 2547
Lewis Cook Bournemouth 6 4 431
Ovie Ejaria Liverpool 2 0 6
Ainsley Maitland-Niles Arsenal 1 0 1
Josh Onomah Tottenham 5 0 18
Adam Armstrong Barnsley (loan) 34 21 1922
Adam Armstrong Newcastle 2 0 27
Dominic Calvert-Lewin Everton 11 5 345
Harrison Chapman Sheffield United (loan) 12 0 280
Ademola Lookman Charlton 21 15 1426
Ademola Lookman Everton (signed in January) 8 3 290

The current side have made a total of 72 Premier League appearances to date, Armstrong leading the way with 15, having made his top-flight debut as a late substitute in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat by Fulham on 15 March 2014.

Everton’s Kieran Dowell and Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo made no senior league appearances this season but both represented their teams in the 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

Dowell made his debut in a final-day win over Norwich, while Ojo played eight times after being recalled in January from a loan spell at Wolves and has appeared twice for the Reds in the FA Cup this season.

Reading keeper Luke Southwood, Spurs full-back Kyle Walker-Peters and Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke are the only players without a full competitive senior appearance – the latter perhaps moving to Liverpool in search of first-team football.

Ezri Konsa<!–

Better off at a lower level?

Ezri Konsa has comfortably played the most minutes of the current squad this season, having been a first-team fixture at League One side Charlton.

However, the versatile 19-year-old, who can play at centre-back and in midfield, was only called up into the England U20 squad after Brentford’s Rico Henry sustained an injury and is yet to play in South Korea.

Newcastle’s Armstrong has started fewer games than Konsa but made more appearances, once again benefitting from a loan move to fellow Championship side Barnsley, having scored 20 goals in 40 appearances for Coventry in the 2015-16 League One season.

Lookman has played the third most minutes, having been a regular alongside Konsa at Charlton before making eight Premier League appearances for Everton.

The Everton connection

Just three days after the sacking of former manager Roberto Martinez in May last year, Everton responded with a vibrant 3-0 win over already-relegated Norwich at Goodison Park.

Victory provided a brief lift at the end of a poor season but was more notable for the impressive performances of several youngsters selected by interim boss David Unsworth – a member of the England U20 squad in 1993.

Dowell and defender Jonjoe Kenny stood out, fellow U20 international Callum Connolly was an unused substitute and Tom Davies made his first start, leaving Unsworth noticeably proud.

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Although Davies has gone on to become a vital part of current boss Ronald Koeman’s plans, Dowell was unused this season and Kenny only played once, while Connolly was sent out on loan to eventually relegated Championship side Wigan Athletic.

However, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has returned from loan spells at Northampton and Sheffield United last year to make 11 Premier League appearances this season and the highly rated Lookman scored on a memorable 4-0 debut win over Manchester City.

And current Everton boss Ronald Koeman has indicated an appreciation of his young talent, by allowing all five Everton members of the Under-20 squad to miss the last two weeks of the season in preparation for the World Cup.

Nicky Barmby<!–

What happened to the 1993 squad?

The history of England youth sides is awash with false dawns and the U20s have proved an erratic measure of future success in the past.

In the 2013 U20 World Cup, England finished bottom of a group containing Iraq, Chile and Egypt, despite a squad featuring subsequent senior internationals Harry Kane, Eric Dier, John Stones, Ross Barkley, Jon Flanagan and James Ward-Prowse.

The 1993 side, captained by then Spurs midfielder Darren Caskey, went much further as they lost in the semi-finals to Ghana before beating Australia in the third-placed play-off thanks to Julian Joachim’s late winner.

But they produced fewer England internationals – Nicky Butt (39), Nick Barmby (23), Alan Thompson (one) and Unsworth (one) collected 64 senior caps in total, while Andy Johnson won 15 senior caps for Wales.

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Click to see content: englandU20_1993_senior_caps

Butt was the youngest member of the squad at the time and did not start any of the matches, but went on to win six Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League as part of the 1999 treble with Manchester United.

Taking the statistics from the end of their careers, the 1993 team amassed 2,579 Premier League games between them and all but three made a top-flight appearance.

Position Player PL appearances England caps
GK Simon Sheppard 0 0
GK David Watson 30 0
DF Marvin Harriot 0 0
DF Anthony Hughes 0 0
DF Andrew Myers 103 0
DF Ian Pearce 238 0
DF David Unsworth 364 1
DF Steve Watson 351 0
MF Nick Barmby 343 23
MF Chris Bart-Williams 211 0
MF Nicky Butt 411 39
MF Darren Caskey 32 0
MF Andy Johnson 101 0
MF Jamie Pollock 79 0
MF Ian Selley 41 0
MF Alan Thompson 105 1
FW Julian Joachim 156 0
FW Adie Mike 14 0

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