BARRIO (AP) – Uruguay beat Italy 1-0 on Sunday to win its first Under-20 World Cup title. The Celeste’s victory ends a streak of four consecutive wins of European teams in the tournament.
Luciano Rodríguez scored the winning goal in the 86th minute in a header from close range, giving Uruguay a much deserved victory after an entire match of dominance against Italy.
More than 40,000 people, mostly cheering for Uruguay, attended the match at the Diego Maradona Stadium. FIFA President Gianni Infantino was also present.
Uruguay barely needed to count on its steady defense, which conceded only three goals in the tournament, all against England in the group stage.
The South American team had clear chances to open the scoring much earlier in a free kick taken by Rodríguez, two long distance shots by captain Fabricio Díaz and a header by Anderson Duarte that forced goalkeeper Sebastiano Desplanches to make one of the best saves of the tournament.
“This is crazy, crazy, crazy and we deserve it,” a tearful Rodríguez said after the match. “We are living a dream.”
Uruguay was so involved with the match in La Plata that the country’s soccer association suspended Sunday’s round of the national championship so fans could watch the final against Italy.
Italy’s Cesare Casadei, the top tournament’s top scorer with seven goals, had a disappointing performance in the final.
Italy coach Carmine Nunziata recognized Uruguay played better, but said the poor pitch affected his players.
“The pitch has penalized any player who has more skills,” Nunziata said. “We had an incredible run. This match doesn’t cancel what we have done, playing all these matches is not easy. They were better than us today.”
Neither Uruguay nor Italy was among the favorites when the U20 World Cup kicked off on May 20, but unlike Brazil, Argentina and England they faced less resistance from clubs about releasing players for the tournament.
It is not mandatory for clubs to allow their players to take part in international youth competitions.
Uruguay lost the final of the tournament in 1997 and 2013. Brazil was the last winner from South America in 2011.
The title for the Celeste comes in the wake of Argentina’s World Cup title in December, which also ended a sequence of wins of European teams.
Earlier, debutant Israel beat South Korea 3-1 to secure third place in the same stadium in La Plata.
Indonesia was initially scheduled to host the tournament, but the Muslim-majority country did not accept Israel’s participation. FIFA decided to hand the organization over to Argentina one month before kickoff.