Tuesday 28 May 2019, 23:57

Real Madrid’s Lunin dreaming of Ukraine glory

  • Andriy Lunin has anchored Ukraine's run to the knockout phase

  • The goalkeeper joined Los Merengues in 2018

  • He speaks about Poland 2019 and his hopes with Real Madrid

The FIFA U-20 World Cup has long been a springboard for players who have gone on to make their mark on world football history. Poland 2019 is no exception to that rule, with Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Lunin just one of many players dreaming of making their mark on the competition.

Lunin has already won his first senior cap for his country, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 friendly draw against Saudi Arabia on 23 March 2018. Further caps have come his way since then.

The Ukrainian keeper attracted the attention of several European clubs, including Liverpool and Roma, while at Zorya Luhansk. He put pen to paper on a six-year contract with Real Madrid in 2018 and spent last season on loan at Leganes to gain experience.

“My dream wasn’t just to sign for Real but to be the first-choice keeper there,” he told FIFA.com. “That’s why I keep on working hard.”

The prospect of working under Zinedine Zidane, who is back at the Bernabeu after leaving last year, clearly excites him: “Zidane is a Real Madrid and football legend. It’s amazing to be coached by him and to listen to his instructions. It’s a dream for me to be able to learn from his experience, a golden opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to have Zidane as their coach?”

The Lunin fact file

  • Name: Andriy Lunin

  • Position: Goalkeeper

  • Club: Real Madrid

  • Date of birth: 11 February 1999

  • Height: 6’3 (1.91cm)

  • Weight: 80kg

After impressing in their Poland 2019 opener against USA, Ukraine maintained their perfect start with a win over Qatar to move through to the last 16. He conceded only once against the Americans, and Lunin kept a clean sheet against Al-Annabi, pulling off some fine stops in the process.

The Ukrainians now take on Nigeria with top spot in the group in their sights.

“We’re playing every three days here and we need to recover physically for the next match against Nigeria,” said Lunin, whose strengths are his ability with the ball at his feet and his knack for saving penalties. “The Nigeria players are fast and determined and they’ve got a lot of skill too. We want first place, though.”

Andriy Lunin of Ukraine takes a selfie with fans following victory

New ground to be broken

Ukraine are making their fourth U-20 World Cup appearance, after Argentina 2001, Netherlands 2005 and New Zealand 2015, and have exited the competition in the Round of 16 on each of those occasions.

“We want to make the quarter-finals for the first time in our history," said Lunin, "but for now we’re just focusing on our third match against Nigeria.

“It’s too soon to start talking about winning the title. The important thing for us is to take it step by step. We’ve got one group game to go before the second phase starts, so we’re obviously not thinking about the final right now. If we can win all our matches, then we’ll be the champions.”