Paul Simpson claims to be the “proudest Englishman in the world” after guiding England to the FIFA U20 World Cup final.
The Young Lions came from a goal down to register an impressive 3-1 semi-final victory over Italy in South Korea, ending England’s 51-year wait for a World Cup final appearance.
“I thought it was a performance worthy of winning any game and to do it in the semi-final of the World Cup against a team like Italy is a really big achievement,” Simpson told Sky Sports News HQ.
“I don’t think there’s an Englishman anywhere in the world who’s as proud as I am. I’m delighted.
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“We were confident there was enough time; if you’re going to concede a goal, conceding that early gives you plenty of time to get back into the game. We just had to stay calm and stick to the game plan, which we thought would be effective.
“I thought for the full game – if you take away that little lapse in concentration and you have to give them credit because it was a wonderful finish – the players were magnificent, from the goalkeeper to those who came off the bench.
“They kept their composure. We knew Italy set up to defend; we knew if we could get crosses into the box we would cause problems and we knew if we could get things going across the six-yard box, the goalkeeper wasn’t dominant at collecting the ball.
“We knew if we kept probing and playing our football we would get something. We scored at a really good time, we were on top and there was huge relief from everyone when that third goal went in.”
Having beaten Uruguay in a dramatic penalty shootout, Venezuela stand between England and U20 World Cup glory in Sunday’s final.
And Simpson has revealed his squad have their sights firmly set on lifting the trophy, having made it their target when he took charge in February.
“When we sat down earlier in the year, the players told me they wanted to win the World Cup,” he added.
“There’s been a lot of work and planning along the way and I’m delighted for the FA, who’ve invested a hell of a lot of money in our developments teams, but our minds are already on Venezuela and making sure we do ourselves justice.
“It’s massive. We talked about getting that first win – it’s been 20 years since we won a game at the U20 World Cup. We were disappointed not to claim back-to-back wins but from Guinea onwards the players have been relentless in their preparation.
“We’ve got a really good, professional group. They’ve been unbelievable and hopefully we can come home with the trophy.”
England’s victory was made on Merseyside as Liverpool summer signing Dominic Solanke and Everton prospect Ademola Lookman notched the goals, while Reds winger Sheyi Ojo played a significant role in both.
“We’re not surprised with the performances they’re putting out,” Simpson said. “They are really good football players who have showed they can play in the Premier League too.”