NEWCASTLE keeper Freddie Woodman insists England “fear nobody” as they prepare to get their Under-20s World Cup campaign off to a flyer against Argentina.
The Toon stopper is part of Paul Simpson’s squad aiming to write their names into the history books in South Korea.
The Three Lions have a miserable record in the competition, with their best finish being third place at the 1993 tournament.
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However, seven of the squad out in the Far East have already tasted success at international level by winning the European Under-17s Championship in 2014.
Woodman, 20, insists that the past will have no influence on this month’s performances as they prepare to make up for lost time.
Speaking exclusively to SunSport, he said: “We know the poor record England has in this tournament historically, and we have seen the quality in those squads of the past.
“We have quality but we know it is not going to be easy. We respect our opponents but don’t fear them.
“A lot of this squad won the Euros in 2014 and we have been waiting for this opportunity at a World Cup since then.
“It was such a big achievement to finally qualify for this last year against Holland after waiting so many years for it and we want to make our mark.”
England, who are also grouped with the host nation and Guinea, could not have asked for a tougher start than Argentina.
The South American giants have won this competition a record six times – but Woodman believes the clash is the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker for the tournament.
He said: “This is a big occasion and gives us the opportunity as a team to perform on a world stage.
“We have to handle that, go out there, play our normal game and hopefully we can do our country proud.
Fifa U20 World Cup South Korea 2017
Sat May 20 – Argentina vs England
Tue May 23 – England vs Guinea
Fri May 26 – England vs South Korea
“Of course it won’t be easy. To win a competition likes this you have to beat the best teams – and we’ve drawn some of the toughest games early.
“But we are looking at them as we do any game, and we are going into it confident that we can kick off the tournament in positive fashion and move on from there.
“We have spent six or seven days in Japan and worked on a few things and the group has really come together. We flew out to South Korea on Monday and now it’s all go preparing for Saturday.”
Despite his tender years, Woodman comes into the tournament full of confidence following a successful loan spell at Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock.
And should he be given the nod to guard the net for the Three Lions, he believes the experiences he gained north of the border can only help him shine.
Woodman explained: “Kilmarnock was quality. To play in a league as big as that and against teams of that calibre was massive for my development. And coming into this World Cup on the back of that loan can only help me.
“I was really happy with that experience and I’m looking forward to getting started out here.
“It really helped me learn to handle the big occasions. We went to Celtic Park in front of a huge crowd and played against big clubs like Rangers and Hearts.
“I kept a clean sheet against Rangers and that was up there with one of my best moments at Killie.
“That was a good night at the office for me. I had a lot of saves to make, it was live on TV, and that is one of the experiences that I’ve taken with me.”
He added: “Then playing at Celtic, in front of nearly 60,000 people, the day seemed to go so quick. They had won the league the week before so we had to give them a guard of honour.
“Being around those big environments and better players, I feel like I’ve learned to deal with that, which will definitely help me at this tournament.”
The England set-up is undergoing a lot of change following last year’s promotion of Gareth Southgate from Under-21s boss into the senior hotseat.
That has had a knock-on effect throughout the age groups with a number of reshuffles and new faces coming into the coaching set-up.
But with a man in charge at the top of the chain who knows so much about the country’s rising stars, Woodman firmly believes there is no better time to be involved with the Three Lions.
Fifa U20 World Cup Groups
He added: “It is a very exciting time to be an England player with the way the whole programme is going.
“Gareth is a manager that is really looking and paying attention at all the youth teams – he has been like that since he was U21s manager. He came out to so many tournaments and matches to keep updated with our progress.
“We have got a new manager in Paul Simpson and it has been enjoyable working with him and hopefully we can be successful with him.”
England’s first match against Argentina will be shown live on Eurosport at 8.30am on Saturday. They will then face Guinea three days later before playing South Korea in their final group match next Friday.