After we lost the semi-final of the KNVB-beker voor amateurs against FC Rijnvogels I had to take a plane to the Solomon Island for the preparations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup we were going to play. This did mean that I had to miss the last two games of the season, our games against Laakkwartier and Valken ’68 but seeing we were already champions this was not a big deal or anything. Solomon Island under 20 had 2 games arranged before the u20 world cup, we’d play Vanuatu Under 20s on the 9th of may and Cuba Under 20s six days later on the 15th. The tournament itself for us would start on the 21st with game against Zambia Under 20s, three days later on the 24th we’ll have to play Argentina Under 20s and our third and final game was against Uzbekistan Under 20s on the 27th. From the draw of the group is was basically already decided that we would not make the next round that is why we already had friendlies planned nine days after the group stage ended against Tahiti Under 20s and six days later Papua New Guinea Under 20s and would be home a couple of days before the preseason with HVV would start again so it was pretty well-timed for me.
As said we played two games before the tournament started, it was mostly to get our match sharpness up. I already had a good idea of who would be the starting eleven these games and for the upcoming tournament. Our opponents on these friendlies where all countries that were about equally our strength unlike our opponents in the U20 World Cup. In our first game, we eventually won 4-3, we scored a lot of goals which was good by I worried that even with an opponent like Vanuata we let them score three goals not sure how that would go when we play against for instance Argentina. The second friendly was against Cuba which we won thanks to two goals by Kaliasi Mamani. we played two games, we had our match sharpness up a little bit but I was very much worried about the games to come.
After those games, we flew to South Korea which was also not easy with stops first in Brisbane in Australia and from there we took a flight to Seoul the capital of South Korea. This was a total of 19 hours flying and everybody was exhausted when we arrived which was not good. I gave the team the day off the next day I do not think to have a training the next day after traveling would have done us any good. I and many others slept in the next day and explored Seoul. In the evening we ate together and went to bed early. The next day we had a light training on the football pitch of one of the local football teams, The next few days we did some training, nothing too hard I did not want anybody to get injured. It was already going to be an uphill battle even without injuries.
The first game was against Zambia who was the second weakest team besides us. They are 69th in the world tanking against our 187th position in the world ranking. Six minutes after the start of the game, there was a foul and Zambia was given a penalty which they scored. fifteen minutes later in the 21st minute, Marshall Futa scored a goal after he got the ball for his feet in a fumble before the Zambia goal after Arnold Mamani shot against the post. A few minutes before halftime Zambia made the 2-1 by a header by Mike Lota. The mood in the dressing room during halftime was not bad, against all odds we were still in the game and still had a chance of winning this game. I gave them a motivational speech and send them back out on the pitch. Six minutes in the second half right-winger Paul Takayama crossed the ball before the goal and a Zambian defender shot the ball right in the feet of left-winger Phillip Samani who scores the 2-2 in the 51st minute. I shout from the sideline to motivate the team to make another goal. In the 75th minute disaster struck as Joseph Mayembe scored for Zambia, the 3-2 winner.
After the game the team was disappointed, we played well it went better than expected but it bear no fruit we still lost the game. I was proud of the boys and I made that very clear to the boys, they played very well against the team that was much stronger and we almost beat them. We had a couple of days to recuperate, three days after our Zambia game we would have to play against Argentina the number two of the world and a team with players who are literally paid millions a year against a team who are amateurs. I know and the team knew that they were about the me slaughtered but it was an honor playing against a team like Argentina and it was something you would tell your grandkids about how you played on the under 20 world cup against Argentina.
From the start of the game, it was clear that we would have nothing to say in this game it was only waiting for the first goal. We held out until the 15th minute when Tomás Conechny scored the first goal. Thirteen minutes later in the 28th minute, he scored his second of the match and six minutes after in the 34th minute that he scored his third making it a hattrick. At halftime it was 3-0 already or really only 3-0 it could have been worse and it wasn’t even that bad I half expected we would end the end in double digits but at the moment that was not yet happening. Four minutes in the second half Tomás Conechny scored his fourth and final goal in the match and was substituted off to rest for their next match. In the 76th their captain Gonzalo Maroni scored the 5-0 which was the final score for the game.
As with the other game I was proud of the game, although we only had two off-target shots on goal the whole game we only lost 5-0 against one of the strongest teams in the world. With that and our previous result, I was happy with how the u20 world cup was going. We still had one game left our game against Uzbekistan. We were basically already knocked out but Uzbekistan had to win against us to qualify and even Zambia could qualify as one of the four best third places in the groups but that was very unlikely seeing they still had to play Argentina. If Uzbekistan beat us and if Zambia somehow would beat Argentina than Argentina would still win the group on goal difference but there would be three teams with six points who all would go to the next round. Very unlikely and I did not see that happening though.
As often was the case this tournament we were behind in the first 10 minutes, Uzbekistan scored a goal in the 4th minute already by their attacker Bobur Abduholiqov. They where the stronger team the first half with the most possession and the most chances but they were not able to get another ball past our keeper luckily we at half time it was only 1-0 for them. During halftime, I encouraged the players telling them maybe we could get luckely and score a goal or maybe even two and win but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. We did keep them at bay somewhat and it took them until the 84th minute for them the score the second and winning goal when Islom Rashidxonov shot the ball past our keeper, the only 18-year-old Emmanuel Hale. The score ended with 2-0 and the under 20 worldcup was over for us.
In the end, Argentina won the group as expected and Uzbekistan was second in the group and went to the second round while Zambia and our team went home. In the second round, Argentina narrowly won against Japan 2-3 while Uzbekistan lost 3-0 against Australia. In the quarterfinal, Argentina did not have an easy draw they had to play against Portugal who are fifth in the world ranking. Portugal went on to win in penalties against France while in the other semi-final Croatia won on penalties against England. In the final Croatia won against Portugal in extra time.
We took the long flight back from South Korea with a stop in Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Island. I had to return to Solomon Island was not not able to go directly back to the Netherlands, back to the preseason with HVV because Solomon Island under 20 still had two friendlies planned. When I came off the plane at the Solomon Island I noticed I missed a call. I was an unknown number so I called back, it was the president of the Bangladesh football federation they wanted to offer me the job of under 19 managers of Bangladesh. I had already told the Solomon Island football association that I would do it until the world cup the friendlies after I only did as a courtesy. On my way back from Solomon Island I would make a stop in Bangladesh to sign my contract.
The Solomon Island knew I was resigning and had already arranged a successor for me. Samson Takayama a 38-year old ex-international who retired as a player was going to be my successor for the under 20 job. I was told I was not going to have to be the manager for the friendlies that were scheduled and the new manager would do it. That was the thanks I got for doing a pretty good job if I might say so myself. I still went and watch the games from the stance a spectator. Our opponents Tahiti under 20 and Papua New Guinea with whom we shared a flight were more our sizes and we won our games easily. We won 3-0 against Tahiti under 20 and 4-0 against Papua New Guinea. I left the Solomon Island, took a flight to Brisbane and from there back to HVV with a stop in Bangladesh.