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Published 25 May 2023 4 min read
Men's Elite League Squad

Uruguay's 'Lions' Den' motivated MU20s to victory, according to Devine

Written by:

Frank Smith

Ian Foster and Alfie Devine react to England men's under-20s' win over Uruguay at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina

England MU20s head coach Ian Foster hailed his side’s ability to handle the pressure of ‘the Lions’ Den’ during Thursday night’s 3-2 win over Uruguay, with midfielder Alfie Devine stating the partisan crowd provided the players with extra motivation.

The Young Lions faced Uruguay in neighbouring Argentina as part of the U-20 World Cup but Foster’s side did not let the thousands of vocal fans in attendance at La Plata Stadium get under their skin as they secured a 3-2 victory, which ensured England MU20s progressed from their group with a game to spare.

Foster said: “Today was a wonderful, wonderful challenge for us. We knew it would be a difficult game because Uruguay are a fantastic team with a lot of individual quality. 

“As a team, they ask you questions time and time again but I thought we stood up to the challenge, we scored three good goals and we’re delighted to get the three points.”

He continued: “This [passionate crowd] is part of the World Cup experience for these younger players.

“The U-20 World Cup is to prepare the players for the senior team so to come here, in the Lions’ Den if you like, I thought the players handled the atmosphere particularly well.”

Ian Foster's impressive record with this group of players continued against Uruguay
Ian Foster's impressive record with this group of players continued against Uruguay

The match was fiercely contested from start to finish, with no shortage of niggly fouls and physicality.

Foster has developed a strong unity within the dressing room, a trait which was pivotal as the majority of the current squad helped the MU19s win the Under-19 EURO last summer.

When asked what impressed him most about the MU20s’ performance against Uruguay, Foster replied: “That we stuck together – the togetherness – that is the biggest thing which struck me about the team tonight.”

England led 2-0 at the interval thanks to Bashir Humphreys heading in Devine’s corner midway through the half, before the provider then scored himself with a fine low drive just before the break.

Uruguay pulled a goal back soon after the interval thanks to Franco Gonzalez to ensure a tense second period before Darko Gyabi guaranteed victory in injury-time, with Matias Abaldo grabbing a consolation with one of the final kicks of the game

With the top two and four best runners-up from the six groups progressing to the round of 16, and two groups being in a situation where the third-placed side could only now receive a maximum of four points, it means the MU20s progress to the last 16 despite still having their final group game against Iraq on Sunday.

Devine said: “It is massive for us to win. Going into the game, we knew the crowd wouldn’t be on our side and I think everyone dug really deep and I think we used it as an advantage to motivate us even more. Everyone did superbly.”

He continued: “[The crowd] motivated us more. Playing in front of a crowd like this, you know you are going to get it. I think we dealt with it really well.”

Report: England MU20s v Uruguay