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FIFA U-20 World Cup

Eight return home with heads held high

The Vanuatu team perform a dance
© Getty Images
  • Eight nations leave for home after group stages
  • collects reactions from various players on lessons learned
  • "I want our younger brothers to take it from here"

Sixteen teams are left at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017, but before the knockout stages get fully underway, it’s time to pay tribute to the eight who are headed home.

Six-time champions Argentina were the biggest shock of the teams departing after the group stages. One enduring moment they bring back is Lautaro Martinez's phenomenal strike which marked the country's 150th goal in the competition.

Fellow South Americans *Ecuador *will be disappointed getting edged out in a competitive Group F, but their wild 3-3 draw with USA proved to be one of the best matches of the group stages.

For Vanuatu *(population: 250,000), *there is a feeling of a legacy being left after competing against sides like Germany (pop: 81m) and Mexico (127m) in their first ever U-20 World Cup. 

“We are very proud of ourselves and we’re proud of our performances,” captain Bong Kalo said. “I think our family back home are having a party.”

For *Amajita *of South Africa, the country had to wait eight years before making it back to the U-20 world finals. “We had a fruitful tournament even though we didn’t make it to the next round,” captain Repo Malepe told “I want our younger brothers to take it from here and compete at World Cups more frequently.”

Guinea had to wait even longer, returning to the U-20 finals for the first time since 1979. They leave Korea Republic with a point after managing a 1-1 draw with eventual group winners England. 

Iran's last appearance before flying to Korea Republic came in 2001 at the World Youth Championship in Argentina. However, after a bright start with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica, their campaign ultimately ended in heartbreak.

“The level of the experience we’ve got here is not comparable to anything we’ve had," Omid Norafkan said. "Our senior team is close to qualifying for the World Cup, so we have to prepare ourselves for these kinds of tournaments. This event will greatly assist and help us to get experience, knowledge for our future appearances.”

*Honduras *went out on a high with a 2-0 victory over Vietnam and for Jorge Alvarez, he’s gained an appreciation for the quality that’s been on show. “Every team is equally good - there is no big or small team, and every team plays good football.”

Korea Republic 2017 will live long in Vietnam's football history as it was their first qualification for the finals of a FIFA 11-a-side competition of any kind.

"We’re proud of what we’ve done in our first World Cup,” Vietnam forward Tran Thanh said, who scored the goal that clinched qualification. “We’ve also learned a lot from professional players playing in this tournament at a very high level. It would have been better if we scored at least one goal here, but in any case, I think it was good for us to motivate our next generation in the future.”

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