Tottenham’s Alfie Devine starred as England reached the knockout stage of the Under-20 World Cup after a 3-2 win over Uruguay.
Devine — whom The Athletic is tracking as part of the series My Football Journey: The Road to 2026 — set up Chelsea loanee Bashir Humphreys’ 22nd-minute opener in La Plata, Argentina, before lashing a second himself in first-half stoppage time.
Franco Gonzalez halved the deficit for Uruguay in the 49th minute but Leeds United’s Darko Gyabi restored England’s advantage in added time.
Though Matias Abaldo struck again for Uruguay just before the full-time whistle, that proved too little, too late.
“It is massive for us to win,” Devine said after the game. “We knew the crowd wouldn’t be on our side and I think everyone dug really deep and I think we used it as an advantage to motivate us even more. Everyone did superbly.
“(The crowd) motivated us more. Playing in front of a crowd like this, you know you are going to get it. I think we dealt with it really well.”
Ian Foster’s side, who last played at the tournament when they won it in 2017, top Group E and have reached the last 16 with a game to spare.
England will play Iraq in their final group game on Sunday.
The side that finishes top in Group E is set to face the second-place side in Group D — currently Brazil — on May 31.
Devine: ‘World Cup 2026? It’s the ‘why not?’ factor’
Devine was an academy player at Liverpool who was released when he was 11, before joining Wigan Athletic.
After impressing for the under-23s, he was sold to Tottenham Hotspur for £300,000 in July 2020 when Wigan went into administration.
Capped for England’s under-16s and under-19s, Jose Mourinho gave Devine his senior debut for Spurs in the third round of the FA Cup against Marine in January 2021. He scored within minutes.
“Every time I watch back the Marine goal, it still feels a bit weird,” he told The Athletic. “For the week after, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think I’d come on at half-time. I was very nervous, I’ll admit that.
“I was in year seven when I was released by Liverpool. The hardest part was worrying about what my mates were going to say. Feeling embarrassed about it when you shouldn’t. I didn’t want to go to school because people would ask, ‘Why aren’t you at Liverpool anymore?’. You don’t want to say you got released. But it’s not really a bad thing, lots of top professionals have been released from clubs at an early age.”
“Everyone’s dream is to become a Premier League player and that’s what I’m looking forward to now. Once I’ve achieved that, that’s when you can look at other stuff.
“I definitely think about England. My first game was with the under-16s against Scotland… pulling on that shirt, the feeling you get is amazing.”
And World Cup 2026? “It’s the ‘why not?’ factor. You take every day as it comes, stuff like that you look forward to, but the bits in between, if you don’t get those right, you’ll never achieve it.”
Alfie Devine, My Football Journey: ‘There’s no one better to look up to than Harry Kane’
My Football Journey: The Road to 2026
My Football Journey: The Road to 2026 is a series following some of the most exciting young footballers in the world during a key moment in their careers.
It will follow the highs, the setbacks, and the hard work they and their clubs are putting in, and show how different their journeys are as they dream of making it to the 2026 World Cup.
Read more below about the highly-rated youngsters — identified for us with the help of the scouts who work for Football Manager — as they work towards the Holy Grail of a place at the 2026 tournament in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Introducing My Football Journey – tracking seven young stars on the path to the 2026 World Cup
(Photo: Getty Images)