ISTANBUL: A fine FIFA World U-20 Youth Cup reached a disappointing climax in Istanbul when a penalty shootout was needed before France clinched the prize for the first time.
The French, probably the best team in terms of performances in the tournament, beat Uruguay 4-1 on penalties after the two teams had staggered through 120 goalless minutes.
Uruguay had far more shots on goal in the Ali Sami Yen stadium but lacked the stamina to press home their advantage around the danger area.
The French hero was goalkeeper Alphonse Areola who saved the the first two penalties as France went on to become the first European winners since Spain’s 4-0 win over Japan in 1999. French fullback Dmitri Foulquier struck the decisive, winning kick beyond keeper Guillermo De Amores.
Uruguay, several of whose players were members of the team beaten previously in the under-17 world final, had been narrow favourites after their earlier victory over Spain. They were also the main standard bearers for South American football after both Brazil and Argentina failed to make it to Turkey.
France thus became the eighth different nation to win the cup. Skipper Paul Pogba, an Italian league champion this past season with Juventus, also carried off the golden ball awarded to the player of the tournament.
The presentation party included FIFA vice-presidents Jim Boyce, Angel Maria Villar (Spain) and Issa Hayatou (Cameroon). Northern Irishman Boyce, the British vice-president, is chairman of the tournament organising committee.
Earlier Ghana defeated Iraq 3-0 in the third place play-off.
Ebenezer Assifuah moved a step closer to claiming the adidas Golden Boot with his sixth goal of Turkey 2013, with his goal sandwiched in between Joseph Attamah’s opener and Frank Acheampong’s second-half strike.
Having missed the chance to play in the evening’s final in heart-breaking style – losing on penalties to Uruguay – Iraq began the game brightly. Third would eclipse their fourth-place finish at the 2004 Olympics and they could have been a step closer to it on two occasions inside the first minute.
Firstly, Ammar Abdulhussein drew a save from Richard Ofori after charging down the left wing and firing across goal, before Mohaned Abdulraheem broke down the same flank and cut back to Jawad Kadhim who shot narrowly wide.
Iraq dominated proceedings from then on, though troubling Ofori comparably little, until the game burst into life on the half hour mark. Assifuah had his first effort of the night, firing just wide from the corner of the box before, at the other end, skill from Kadhim led to Mahdi Kamil’s cross causing havoc in the area. Lawrence Lartey eventually got Abdulhussein’s shot clear.
Ghana then took the lead against the run of play. Moses Odjer swung in a corner from the left and Joseph Attamah rose ahead of all others to head beyond Mohammed Hameed. Ghana made it two with almost the last kick of the half when the ball broke kindly to Assifuah, beat the back-line with a sublime turn of pace and drilled sublimely into the far corner.
Iraq went close straight after the break, with Ali Faez’s free-kick from 25-yards being beaten away by Ofori. Ali Adnan, Iraq’s star of their semi-final, also began to push forward, showing quick feet in the area, before having a shot blocked by Richmond Nketiah soon after.
Abdulhussein spurned a great chance to halve the deficit, skewing his shot wide from inside the box. Hameed then almost gifted Ghana a golden chance to put the game to bed, careering out of his area to beat Assifuah to the ball, only to miscontrol and have to fight it off Aboagye.
Eight minutes later though, the third goal finally arrived for the Black Satellites. After a great clearance by Dhurgham Ismael denied Frank Acheampong providing one moments earlier, the Anderlecht-bound forward got himself on the scoresheet. A sublime through-ball by Aboagye split the defence, with Acheampong on hand to side-foot over Hameed.
France first: Pogba 1-0, Velazquez saved 1-0; Veretout 2-0, Arrascaeta saved; Ngando 3-0, Olaza 3-1; Foulquier 4-1.
Referee: Garcia (Mex). Attendance: 20,601.
Golden ball (top player): Paul Pogba (France).
Golden boot (top scorer): Assifuah (Ghana).
Golden gloves (goalkeeper): De Amores (Uruguay).