Hello, and welcome to Sports Mole
's live coverage of the semi-final contest at the Under-20 World Cup between Italy Under-20s
and England Under-20s
Like with most national teams, success comes in cycles but when England rocked up at the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, there would have naturally have been reservations over how they would fare. The reason being because they had failed to win a single match at this age category in a World Cup for two decades. It was an astonishing statistic for a nation the size of England but over the past two-and-a-half weeks, Paul Simpson
's side have provided hope that as much progress is being made off the pitch as it is off it.
Reaching the semi-finals of a World Cup is an achievement in itself but it is fair to say that England have done it the hard way. They have defeated the likes of Argentina, tournament hosts South Korea and Mexico on their way to the last four with the only time they have failed to win coming against Guinea, of all sides. Only a freak own goal from Fikayo Tomori stopped England on that occasion. Some of the victories have captured the imagination but to reach the final for the first time in their history, England must overcome an Italian outfit who will not be easy to overcome.
The first thing you notice about Italy's run to this stage of the competition is that they only finished as runners-up in their group. However, don't be fooled. They claimed second spot behind Uruguay, who have also reached the semi-finals and are currently in action against Venezuela in a match which has gone to extra time.
In the knockout stages, they edged out France before requiring another 30 minutes to finally get past Zambia, who were two minutes plus added-on time away from causing an upset, that after they had beat Germany in the previous round. Struggling past Zambia might not look impressive but ignore reputations. Tournaments like this are about performances on the day and who wants it more. Both nations have shown that repeatedly during their time in South Korea.
Right then, some team news. Who has Paul Simpson
gone up in his starting lineup?
ENGLAND UNDER-20s XI:: Woodman, Kenny, Walker-Peters, Clarke-Slater, Tomori, Cook, Dowell, Maitland-Niles, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman, Solanke
It does not come as a huge surprise that Simpson has made numerous changes to his side given the effort they put in against Mexico, with the closing stages being played with 10 men. Joshua Onomah - who was harshly sent off in that game - is suspended while Dael Fry and Adam Armstrong also drop out. The three incomings are Jake Clarke-Salter, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. I've never seen so many double-barrelled names...
ITALY UNDER-20s XI Zaccagno, Scalera, Dimarco, Romagna, Coppolaro, Orsolini, Mandragora, Favilli, Pessina, Vitale, Panico
Italy coach Alberigo Evani
has made two alterations to his side for today's game. Giuseppe Pezzella is suspended and Francesco Cassata came off injured against Zambia, so Federico Dimarco and Rolando Mandragora have been brought into the team. If the other matches are anything to go by, the danger man is Riccardo Orsolini
, with the Juventus attacker who has been on loan at Ascoli scoring four goals in this competitions, with one each coming in each of his last four outings.
While Italy have been fairly reliant on Orsolini, England have shown that they have several matchwinners in their side. Dominic Solanke
has two goals to his name, the second of which was the decider in the last-eight showdown with Mexico, while Ademola Lookman
scored both goals in the second-round win over Costa Rica. Dominic Calvert-Lewin got the campaign underway with a goal as well. On the bench, Adam Armstrong will be primed and ready if required and do not be surprised to see the lively Sheyi Ojo on the pitch at some stage due to Onomah being unavailable.
If we are looking for factors which may benefit England, we would include the location. Three of their previous five matches have been staged in Jeonju, whereas Italy are playing at the stadium for the first time.
RESULT! What scenes in Daejeon! Venezuela have made the final with a penalty-shootout triumph over Uruguay! Not only that, they only forced extra time with a last-minute free kick from Samuel Sosa. It was a true David Beckham moment. They have made the final for the first time ever!
PREDICTION! This is a difficult match to call. However, we are going to be all patriotic and back England to pull off the win. After Italy played extra time in their quarter-final tie, the Three Lions may have the edge in the closing stages. Let's hope so. England to win by a 2-1 scoreline.
The two nations have made their way out in Jeonju. It's national anthem time.
Don't expect any of Paul Simpson's squad to be signing up for X-Factor in future years...
Right, let's do this. England get us underway.
It takes England all of 22 seconds to win a corner kick. italy are sleeping and it is played short, but Italy manage to defend it well when the ball enters the box.
GOAL! Italy Under-20s 1-0 England Under-20s (Orsolini)
Disaster for England. Italy storm forward and after some good hold-up play from Favilli, his pass finds Orsolini who curls the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards with a first-time strike. Great finish. Bad start for England.
To England's credit, conceding that goal has not resulted in them losing the spring in their step. They are passing the ball about confidently, but moves are breaking down when they reach the penalty area.
England continue to build up a head of steam but their latest attack is halted when Lookman's arm catches Orsolini in the face. He goes down like it was a sinister elbow. Both players are warned.
I am trying to keep this as positive as I can, despite the scoreline. England are playing well and are much the better side. They just need to be as clinical as their opponents, who probably won't require as many chances as England to add a second in this contest.
Still much of the same from England, who look supremely confident without adding that frequent threat when they need to get a shot away. It is a different story with Italy who aren't having much of the ball in the final third but when they do, they look like scoring.
CHANCE! Is this a chance? We are counting it. Lookman's floated pass into the box finds Dowell at the back post. He doesn't appear to be expecting it, however, and his improvised effort is flicked onto the top of the net.
For all the praise I am giving England, I also have to credit Italy for the way they are absorbing everything which is coming their way. It goes without saying that they are well-organised but they are pacing this game well so far. There's no need for them to chase it.
SHOT! There seems to be an obsession for England to find players in wide positions when really, they should be throwing caution to the wind and forcing Zaccagno into some work. Cook tries to do just that - only after a failed cross - but he drags his 25-yard strike wide.
BOOKING! This is an easy decision for the referee. Orsolini goes into the book for a late challenge on Walker-Peters. No complaints from the Italian.
The free kick which came off the back of that foul is a mess. England attempted something rehearsed in training but it did not come off.
England get lucky. Italy eventually put together a break forward and only a block from Walker-Peters prevents Dimarco from finding the far corner from inside the penalty area.
There's not much quality from either side at the moment. England have lost their rhythm and are trying to force the play, while Italy are missing opportunities to exploit mistakes made by their opponents.
Again, more forced, panicky play from England. Maitland-Niles initially did well to stop an Italy attack but the move ended with Dowell firing well over the crossbar in the penalty area.
BOOKING! This is cynical from Favilli, who trips Cook after the Bournemouth midfielder broke clear of him by the halfway line.
England could probably do with half time to regroup. It's all huff and puff now. None of their attacking players are performing anywhere close to the level expected of them. Cook has also been poor in midfield.
CHANCE! Better from England as Walker-Peters's inswinging cross is flicked towards the far corner by Solanke but his header just goes wide.
SHOT! Two chances in 60 seconds, again through Solanke. He dispossesses an Italian player in midfield before running directly towards goal but his swerving effort from 25 yards is well saved by Zaccagno.
HALF TIME: Italy Under-20s 1-0 England Under-20s
The half-time whistle goes in Jeonju and Italy lead thanks to that early goal from Orsolini. England have had their moments and responded well to falling behind, but they have work to do if they want to make history and reach the final.
Italy get us back underway.
It's been a slow start to this second half from England. Italy sat deep in the first half, but they appear to have taken a couple of steps back since the restart. England are going to find it difficult to find a way through, I predict.
I get the impression that Cook was told, in no uncertain terms, that he under-performed in the first half because he is all over the pitch at the start of this second period. He has a big part to play with Italy prepared to sit back. England need someone who is capable of providing a spark in the middle of the pitch.
SHOT! This is greedy from Solanke but at the same time, he almost scores a stunning goal. He should have played the pass on the overlap but instead, he ran towards goal and fired marginally wide of the post from the edge of the area.
SUBSTITUTION! It's Sheyi Ojo time. He has replaced Dowell.
CHANCE! He almost scores within 20 seconds of his introduction! He gets on the ball after meeting a cross but his half-volley is deflected wide.
SHOT! SO CLOSE! Calvert-Lewin tees up Everton teammate Kenny on the edge of the penalty area but his deflected effort goes literally an inch wide of the far post.
England really fancy this now. They have to be wary of Italy on the break but they believe they can find an equaliser. The time to strike is now.
WOODWORK! Ojo now strikes the post! After a short free kick, he attempted a low cross - I think - but it missed everyone and clipped the outside of the woodwork.
SHOT! Ojo has changed this match and he should probably score here. He jinks his way past a defender in the penalty area but his eventual shot is straight at Zaccagno. If England can equalise, they will get a second.
BOOKING! This is harsh on Kenny. He wins the ball in a challenge with Favilli but he is booked. The referee was influenced by the striker's reaction, which was dramatic to say the least.
GOAL! Italy Under-20s 1-1 England Under-20s (Solanke)
Yes England! A cross from Ojo is parried into the path of Solanke, who produces the calmest of volleys through a group of players to score into an empty net from 12 yards.
CHANCE! England come agonisingly close to a second. Calvert-Lewin breezes past a defender in the penalty area before sending the ball across the penalty area. However, a defender gets in the way of Solanke. It is brilliant defending.
SUBSTITUTION! Italy make their first change, with Paolo Ghiglione replacing Panico.
As we enter the final 15 minutes, it is still all England, who know that Italy are there for the taking. A second goal may be enough to win this game but even if England can make extra time, you would fancy them to outlast their opponents.
GOAL! Italy Under-20s 1-2 England Under-20s (Lookman)
England take the lead! It's fully deserved too. A cross from Ojo causes all sorts of problems at the back post and after the ball falls invitingly for Lookman inside the six-yard box, he lashes the ball into the net. Simpson's side are 13 minutes plus added-on time from history.
Italy make a second alteration, with Luca Vido
England have been sensational in this second half but they still have work to do to wrap up their place in the final. A third goal would surely do it and they are going looking for it.
BOOKINGS! Vido and Mandragora both go into the books for acts of dissent and petulance.
Italy have started to mount an assault on the England goal. They are yet to create a chance but the danger signs are there for England. This game isn't over yet.
SUBSTITUTION! Italy's final switch sees Alfredo Bifulco come on for Scalera.
GOAL! Italy Under-20s 1-3 England Under-20s (Solanke)
Game over. Solanke finds the corner from 25 yards, via the aid of the goalkeeper's hands. England are going to reach the World Cup final!
There will be three minutes of added-on time.
One minute to go. I repeat - England are going to reach the World Cup final!
SUBSTITUTION! England make a needless change but we don't care. Lookman is being replaced by Ezri Konsa.
FULL TIME: Italy Under-20s 1-3 England Under-20s
The full-time whistle goes in Jeonju and England have done it - they have reached the final of the World Cup! What an achievement for Simpson's side and they fully deserve it. They battered Italy in that second half. Venezuela awaits on Sunday...
That will be all from Sports Mole for this game. Thank you for joining us today and we hope to see you on Sunday for what promises to be quite the occasion. Goodbye for now.