Alfie Devine stars as England advance to the knockout stages of the U20 World Cup
Tottenham’s Alfie Devine starred as England reached the knockout stages of the U20 World Cup after beating Uruguay 3-2.
Devine – whom The Athletic is following on the series My Football Journey: The Road to 2026 – set up Chelsea loanee Bashir Humphreys’ opening goal in La Plata, Argentina, in the 22nd minute, before scoring himself in first-half added time scored a second goal.
Franco Gonzalez halved the deficit for Uruguay in the 49th minute, but Leeds United’s Darko Gyabi restored England’s lead in added time.
Although Matias Abaldo scored again for Uruguay just before the final whistle, it proved too little and too late.
“It’s huge for us to win,” Devine said after the game. “We knew the audience wasn’t going to be on our side and I think everyone really pushed their shoulders and I think we used that as an advantage to motivate us even more. Everyone did great.
“(The audience) motivated us more. When you play in front of an audience like that, you know you’re going to make it. I think we handled it really well.”
Ian Foster’s side, who last won the tournament in 2017, top Group E and have reached the last 16 with a game to go.
England meet Iraq in their final group game on Sunday.
The team that finishes first in Group E meets the runners-up in Group D – currently Brazil – on 31 May.
Devine: “World Cup 2026? It’s the ‘why not?’ factor
Devine was an academy player at Liverpool who was sacked aged 11 before joining Wigan Athletic.
After impressing with the under-23 players, he was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £300,000 in July 2020 when Wigan went into government.
Jose Mourinho, who plays for England Under-16 and Under-19 teams, gave Devine his senior debut for Spurs in January 2021 in the FA Cup third round match against Marine. He scored a goal within minutes.
“Every time I look at the Marines’ goal, it still feels a little weird,” he told The Athletic. “A week later I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think I’d be substituted on at half-time. I was very nervous, I’ll admit that.
“I was in my seventh year when I was sacked by Liverpool. The hardest part was thinking about what my friends would say. You feel embarrassed when you really shouldn’t. I didn’t want to go to school because people were like, ‘Why aren’t you in Liverpool anymore?’ You don’t want to say you were released. But it’s not really bad, many top professionals were released from the clubs early on.”
“Everyone dreams of becoming a Premier League player and I’m looking forward to that now. Once I achieve that, there are other things to look at.
“I’m definitely thinking about England. My first game was with the Under-16s against Scotland… When you put that shirt on, the feeling is just amazing.”
And the 2026 World Cup? “It’s the ‘why not?’ Factor. You take each day as it comes, those things that you look forward to, but the bits in between – if you don’t get them right, you’ll never make it.”
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My football journey: The road to 2026
My Football Journey: The Road to 2026 is a series that follows some of the world’s most exciting young footballers at a pivotal moment in their careers.
It will track the highlights, setbacks and the hard work they and their clubs put in, showing just how diverse their journeys are as they dream of making it to the 2026 World Cup.
Read more below about the top-rated up-and-coming players we’ve identified with the help of Football Manager’s scouts as they work toward the Holy Grail of earning a spot at the 2026 tournament in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Introducing My Football Journey – we follow seven young stars on their way to the 2026 World Cup
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