Monday 15 June 2020, 09:00

What happened to the stars of Poland 2019?

  • The Poland 2019 took place one year ago today

  • Ukraine were crowned world champions

  • What happened to the top ten talents at the tournament?

Exactly one year ago today, Ukraine won the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019™ by beating Korea Republic 3-1. The Technical Study Group (TSG) later compiled their most important insights from the tournament in a 136-page report that can be found on and listed ten players who, according to the experts, delivered particularly eye-catching performances. takes a look at how this top ten have fared over the past year.

Lee Kangin (Korea Republic – winner of the adidas Golden Ball)

Despite being the youngest player in the Korea Republic squad, Lee Kangin impressed by showing remarkable composure on the ball. The playmaker from Incheon shouldered plenty of responsibility in attack and dazzled crowds with his creativity. Lee had already broken into Valencia’s first team a few months before the tournament in Poland and wasted no time in making his debut in Spain’s La Liga.

The midfielder had also already received his first call-up to Korea Republic’s senior side. His meteoric rise continued after finishing second at the U-20 World Cup, as he became the youngest South Korean ever to feature in the UEFA Champions League and was named in the Taeguk Warriors’ starting line-up for the first time in September 2019.

Korea Republic's Kangin Lee

Chris Richards (USA)

Although the Stars and Stripes were eliminated by Ecuador in the quarter-finals, they had a standout player in their ranks in Chris Richards. The American made his debut for record-breaking German champions Bayern Munich’s second team shortly after the World Cup and has since become an indispensable member of the side.

Chris Richards of the United States reacts

Andriy Lunin (Ukraine – winner of the adidas Golden Glove)

Lunin played a major role in Ukraine’s triumph at this tournament, with displays such as his impressive saves against Qatar and his ability to marshal the defence. The young shot-stopper has been on Real Madrid’s books since 2018 but has yet to make an appearance for them.

After loan spells with Leganes and Valladolid, Lunin appears to have found his feet at Real Oviedo, where he has become a regular starter. At international level, the youngster is widely considered to be the natural successor to legend and captain Andriy Pyatov in the senior side.

Andriy Lunin of Ukraine celebrates victory 

Alessandro Plizzari (Italy)

Goalkeeper Alessandro Plizzari provided Italy with a formidable last line of defence, ultimately helping the Squadra Azzurra finish fourth. After the World Cup in Poland, Plizzari’s parent club AC Milan loaned him out to Serie B side Livorno, where he secured a regular place in the starting line-up by the end of November and has impressed fans with consistently strong performances.

After returning to AC Milan, Plizzari will no doubt be closely monitoring the club’s negotiations with goalkeepers Gianluigi and Antonio Donnarumma. Any changes resulting from these talks could represent a major opportunity for Plizzari.

Serhii Buletsa (Ukraine – Winner of the adidas Silver Ball)

Effective, precise passes are the hallmark of Buletsa’s game, making him the go-to player for set-pieces and a constant threat both around and inside the penalty area. The Ukrainian No10 had an instinctive feel for his positioning within the 18-yard box and soon became the man for the big occasion in Poland, scoring several important goals. Just a few weeks after his country’s triumph, Buletsa moved from Dynamo Kiev to newly-promoted Dnipro. He found the target after just two minutes on his debut to score his team’s first-ever goal in the Ukrainian Premier League.

Serhii Buletsa of Ukraine celebrates after winning a semi-final against Italy at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

Sekou Koita (Mali)

The striker had an excellent tournament, despite being unable to prevent his country’s quarter-final exit at the hands of Italy. He has since made regular appearances for Mali’s senior team and has established himself in the Austrian top flight for Red Bull Salzburg.

Sekou Koita of Mali reacts as he hits the crossbar with a chance

Yukhym Konoplia (Ukraine)

Just like his international team-mate Buletsa, Konoplia moved from footballing heavyweights Shakhtar Donetsk to one of the country’s up-and-coming teams last summer. However, the defender has not yet managed to secure a regular place in the starting line-up for Desna Chernihiv.

Yukhym Konoplia of Ukraine falls over Alessandro Tripaldelli of Italy 

Valerii Bondar (Ukraine)

Valerii Bondar captained Ukraine to the title. The centre-half enjoyed an exceptional tournament and particularly impressed onlookers with his fantastic positional play. No player intercepted more passes or blocked more shots than the man from Kharkiv.

Since his World Cup triumph, Bondar has become a pillar of the Shakhtar Donetsk defence, making regular league appearances. The defender has even scored one goal in ten matches. He is currently working his way back to fitness after suffering a serious ankle injury recently.

Valerii Bondar of Ukraine looks on in the tunnel

Gonzalo Plata (Ecuador – Winner of the adidas Bronze Ball)

Right-wing whirlwind Gonzalo Plata put numerous talent scouts on high alert at Poland 2019. With three goals for Ecuador and numerous spectacular dribbles into opposition territory, Plata snapped up the adidas Bronze Ball as the third-best player at the U-20 World Cup 2019.

Sporting secured the player’s services immediately after the tournament. Since making the transition from the U-23s to the first team, Plata now makes regular league appearances for the Lisbon titans and has had his first taste of continental club football in the UEFA Europa League. Plata has also been promoted at international level, making his debut for the senior national team on 6 September 2019. He has already won four caps and scored one goal for Ecuador.

 Salvatore Esposito of Italy battles for possession with Gonzalo Plata of Ecuador 

Amadou Sagna (Senegal – Winner of the adidas Bronze Boot)

Senegal’s fleet-footed starlet Amadou Sagna was the joint-second-highest goalscorer and was rewarded with the adidas Bronze Boot. The winger also entered the history books by scoring the tournament’s fastest-ever goal after just 9.6 seconds against Tahiti.

After Poland 2019, Sagna moved to Club Brugge, who already boasted several Senegalese players. Despite this, Sagna has not yet made his breakthrough in Europe, having failed to make an appearance for either Brugge or loan club KV Oostende. Brugge have now announced that Sagna will be returning to his homeland.