From June 21 to 13th July the eyes of the world will be on Turkey as 24 teams compete to win the 19th edition of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup. The tournament kicks off this afternoon at 15:00 GMT with a number of interesting clashes as newcomers Cuba face Korea Republic in Kayseri and in Group A France will meet 2009 champions Ghana in Instanbul’s Türk Telekom Arena.
The Group of Death :GROUP A (Istanbul, Kayseri): France, Ghana, USA, Spain. Group A is arguably the Group of Death with 2009 champions Ghana,2012 Euro Under-19 champions Spain, France and 2013 CONCACAF U-20 runners up USA. Tournament favourites Spain who have won 7 European Champions at senior, under 21,under 19 and under 17 level in the past 5 years have to win this tournament after a poor London 2012. Spain’s main threat going forward is Madrid man Jesé Rodriguez who won the Golden Boot at the European Championship in Estonia with his 5 strikes while winger Gerard Deulofeu won his second successive UEFA European Under-19 Championship title in a tournament where the FC Barcelona player was named player of the tournament. Having been drawn into the ‘Group of Death’, the Black Satelites will have to overcome stiff opposition from France and Spain if they want to progress to the knock-out stages with the likes of Liberty Professionals striker Ebenezer Assifuah, Black Stars striker Richmond Yiadom Boakye and Baba Rahman in the side. The Americans are making their 13th appearance at the World Cup, and could very well be fielding one of their strongest sides ever with talents like goalkeeper Cody Cropper and midfielder Caleb Stanko. Offensively,Jose Villarreal poses a significant threat but the number 13 is a sign of bad luck in the US. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba and Lyon’s Samuel Umtiti are definitely the most talented players in this French side. The squad travelling to Turkey is virtually unchanged from the one that clinched qualification at the 2012 UEFA European U-19 Championships.
France : Paul Pogba,Geoffrey Kondogbia,Samuel Umtiti,Yaya Sanogo,Thibaut Vion
Ghana :Lawrence Lartey, Ebenezer Assifuah, Eric Antwi, Francis Narh,Richmond Yiadom Boakye
USA :Jose Villarreal, Cody Cropper,Caleb Stanko, Benji Joya,Luis Gil
Spain :Gerard Deulofeu, Jesé Rodriguez, Suso,Denis Suárez,Paco Alcácer
Deja Vu: GROUP B (Kayseri, Istanbul): Cuba, Korea Republic, Nigeria, Portugal Nigeria will be making their 9th appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In 1989 and 2005, they were beaten finalists, while in 1985 they finished third. Meanwhile,Portugal’s Golden Generation which had players like Luis Figo,João Pinto,Rui Costa and Fernado Couto won back to back titles in the 1989 and 1991 editions. When the Portuguese won those trophies,they were drawn into the same group with Nigeria in 1989 and Korea Republic in 1991.Does Portugal have what it takes to emulate their predecessors? Newcomers Cuba lost 1-0 to El Salvador in the 3rd place game of the CONCACAF tournament and thus secured their ticket to Turkey.Coach Lee Kwangjong’s side sealed their 6th consecutive qualification, this time as Asian champions, having drawn one and won five games in the 2012 AFC U-19 Championship.
Cuba: Maykel Reyes,Arichel Hernandez, Adrian Diz, Daniel Luis
Portugal: André Gomes, Bruma,João Mário
Nigeria: Abdul Ajagun, Olarenwaju Kayode, Aminu Umar, Ikechukwu Okorie, Kingsley Madu
Korea Republic: Lee Changgeun, Lee Gwanghun, Kang Sangwoo
Hosts Turkey face El Salvador while Colombia meet Australia in Group C tomorrow. El Salvador is one of three newcomers who will be taking part in the Under 20 World Cup after finishing 3rd in the 2013 CONCACAF Under 20 Championship. Jairo Henriquez was the only Salvadoran in the Team of the Tournament. On the other side of the continent, South American champions Colombia and hosts of the 2011 edition are one of the favourites to lift the trophy with the likes of strikers John Cordoba , Miguel Borja and Brayan Pera who scored four,three and one goal respectively during the South American Youth Championship. Australia’s team has experienced players in the side with Terry Antonis and Corey Gameiro both playing at the previous edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia. Stiker Corey Gameiro netted100% (6 goals) of Australia’s goals at the 2012 AFC- Under 19 Championship. Paul Izzo and Connor Chapman were members of the squad that made the Round of 16 at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico. One key absentee is Borussia Dortmund’s Mustafa Amini who was also in Colombia.Terry Antonis and Adam Taggart have capped Australia at senior international level during the EAFF East Asian Cup Qualifiers. Being drawn into one of the tournament’s weaker groups Turkey has a bigger chance of making it into the next round. Signed from Bucaspor in 2012, Fenerbahce’s 19 year old wonderkid Salih Uçan will be one of the stars of the tournament
Turkey:Salih Uçan,Kerim Frei,Hakan Çalhanoğlu
El Salvador: Jairo Henríquez,Olivier Ayala,Roberto González
Colombia: Cristian Bonilla, Juan Quintero, John Cordoba
Australia: Terry Antonis,Corey Gameiro, Paul Izzo,Connor Chapman,Terry Antonis, Adam Taggart
GROUP D (Gaziantep, Trabzon): Mexico, Greece, Paraguay, Mali
After missing out on Colombia 2011,Paraguay will make their ninth appearance at Turkey 2013. To date, La Albirroja’s best performance was at Argentina 2001, when they finished fourth after going down to the hosts in the semi-finals and then Egypt in the match for third place. Most valuable player of the tournament,Antonio Briseño, helped Mexico to a record 12th CONCACAF title at under 20 level on home soil in Pubela earlier this year. Goalkeeper Richard Sanchez won the Golden Glove award while 6 Mexican players were named in the Team of the Tournament. A large chunk of the players from the winning 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup will be in Turkey. Underdogs Mali will take plenty of positives from their fourth-place finish at the African Youth Championship.
GROUP E (Antalya, Bursa): Chile, Egypt, England, Iraq
Uruguay’s Roma striker Nicolas Lopez 6 goals for his country during the 2013 South American Youth Championship made him topscorer of the tournament. His teammate Diego Rolán scored 4 times.The European side in Group F,Croatia,conceded just two goals in their three group games at the U-19 EURO 2012, the best defensive record of any team at the tournament along with France. Uzbekistan’s star Igor Sergeev won the 2012 AFC U-19 Championship Golden Boot with his 7 goals. Wellington Phoenix striker was named best player of the 2013 OFC U-20 Championship with his 4 goals (all penalties).
New Zealand: Louis Fenton,Tim Payne,Cameron Howieson
Uzbekistan: Igor Sergeev,Timur Khakimov,Maksimilian Fomin
Uruguay: Nicolás López, Diego Rolán,Diego Laxalt
Croatia: Filip Mrzljak, Toni Gorupec, Simon Sluga, Marko Pjaca
South American dominance
1-This tournament marks the first time in its history in which neither defending champions Brazil and Argentina (the most successful teams in the competition) have failed to qualify.
2- This is also the second time that Brazil will not be part of the tournament after missing the 1979 edition. In Africa, Egypt’s Mossad Awad conceded just 2 goals in the five matches that Egypt played at the African Youth Championship. The Ismaily goalkeeper became his side’s hero when he saved Michael Anaba’s penalty in the 5-4 shoot-out victory in the final.
3 –Three newcomers – Greece, El Salvador and Cuba will take part in FIFA’s second-oldest competition. The trio have a lot to learn from the Flying Eagles of Nigeria who have thrice made it to the semi finals on 3 occasions.
4 – The only African team that has a better record than Nigeria is Ghana, who have four semi-final appearances and one victory to their name. The 2013 African Youth Championship top scorer Aminu Umar scored 4 times for Nigeria.
5- Just like their seniors,Brazil won their fifth title in Colombia 24 months ago while Turkey 2013 will be the fifth consecutive appearance for Nigeria.
6- Korea Republic sealed their 6th consecutive qualification having drawn one and won five games in the 2012 AFC U-19 Championship.
7-The tournament will be hosted in the seven cities of Istanbul, Antalya, Bursa, Gaziantep, Kayseri, Rize and Trabzon. 8- The cup has been lifted by just 8 teams in the competition’s history, most recently Brazil, who claimed the prize two years ago in Colombia. Egypt is not part of that illustrious 8 but this tournament will be the eighth time the north Africans have appeared at the showcase event of youth football and the third time in succession.
9- The Flying Eagles will be making their ninth appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
11 – The number of goals Korea Republic scored as they won the AFC U-19 Championship
12 – That victory was Korea Republic’s 12th AFC U-19 Championship title.
13 -Turkey 2013 marks the South Koreans 13th appearance in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, with their debut dating back to Japan 1979.
15 – The number of goals, out of a squad total of 16, scored by Colombian attackers and midfielders during the South American Youth Championship.
16 – The number of goals Paraguay scored in their nine games in qualifying, thus becoming joint-highest scorers alongside Colombia. Their leading marksman was Derlis Gonzalez, of SL Benfica, who struck four times.
32 – The number of goals the Iraqis scored on the road to Turkey, 22 of them in the preliminary phase and the remaining ten in the U-19 Asian Championship.
For the players taking part it is a chance to follow in the footsteps of former Golden Boot winners Diego Maradona, Robert Prosinecki, Seydou Keita, Javier Saviola, Ismail Matar, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero,Dominic Adiyiah and Henrique. In the absence of Brazil and Argentina, will Ghana and Spain do enough to win a second title? Do Portugal and Spain have what it takes to end the South American duopoly ?