The U-20 World Cup is upon us. It includes some of the best young talent under or at 20 years of age. This youth World Cup has been held every two years since 1977. Players such as Fernando Morientes, Xavi, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, and Michael owen have all played in this tournament. Since it has come into commencement, only eight different countries have come away with victories—Argentina currently having the most with six titles and Brazil the last team to win the Cup. But astonishingly enough both teams have failed to qualify for this esteemed tourney. This of course leaves more leeway for a more equal tournament with both of the South American powerhouses out.
But alas let us focus on the competition ahead. Group A contains the likes of France, Ghana, USA, and Spain which is also known as ‘the group of death’. This group is consisted of by far the most talented and well-rounded group in the tournament.
KEEPERS: Dani Sotres (Racing Santander), Adrián Ortola (Villarreal)
DEFENDERS: Manquillo (Atlético Madrid), Jonny Castro (Celta), Derik and Llorente (Real Madrid), Isra (Sevilla), Gaya (Valencia)
MIDFIELDERS: Ager Aketxe (Athletic Bilbao), Oliver Torres and Saúl Ñiguez (Atlético Madrid), Ruben García (Levante), Suso (Liverpool), Denis Suárez (Manchester City), Jairo (Racing Santander), Campana (Sevilla), Juan Bernat (Valencia)
FORWARDS: Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Jesé (Real Madrid), Paco Alcácer (Valencia).
Spain arrive at Turkey 2013 as one of the favorites for the title after their successful victory at the UEFA European U-19 Championship 2012. They are under the tutelage of Julen Lopetegui, former goalkeeper for Barcelona and Real Madrid. The juvenile Spainiards play a style similar to that of the country’s senior team. The heart of their play is focused on short passing and possession combined with technical ability. This is a style which central midfielder Oliver Torres is at the cornerstone and is the chief orchestrator. He pulls the strings of this young side playing deep as a regista, almost similar to the role of Pirlo at Juventus. The only exception is that Oliver Torres possesses the mobility that Pirlo doesn’t. Oliver Torres is not alone, he has the help of the two influential wingers Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona B and Jese Rodriguez from Real Madrid Castilla. Jese was the leading scorer of the U19 European Championships last summer with 5 and has scored 22 goals in the Liga Adelante this season. He is a pure winger and has the ability to take on players with his speed, power and intensity. Deulofeu is a similar player. He makes darting, powerful runs through the center of the pitch. He mainly occupies the left wing as an inverted winger and tends to cut onto his favored right foot. Both players will be eager to prove to their clubs that they are able to play in the first team. The U-20 World Cup could certainly be the door to the future. This squad will be ambitious to replicate the senior side in attaining more and more silverware. With Brazil out of the tournament they could regain the title they lost two years ago.
GOALKEEPERS: Eric Ofori Antwi (Amidaus Professionals), Felix Annan (Asante Kotoko), Michael Sai (Berekum Chelsea)
DEFENDERS: Richmond Nketiah (Medeama FC), Jeremiah Arkorful (Tema Youth), Lawrence Lartey (Ash Gold), Ahmed Adams (Berekum Chelsea), Ofori Ebenezer (New Edubiase United), Baba Mensah (Neve Yosef, Israel)
MIDFIELDERS: Seidu Salifu (Wa All Stars), Derrick Mensah (Tema Youth), Michael Anaba (Asante Kotoko), Clifford Aboagye (Udinese, Italy), Emmanuel Gyamfi (Wa All Stars), Moses Odjer (Tema Youth), Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi (Maritzburg United, South Africa), Kwame Boahene (Liberty Professionals), Jacob Asiedu-Apau (Medeama)
FORWARDS: Kennedy Ashia (Liberty Professionals), Ebenezer Assifuah (Liberty Professionals), Francis Narh (Tema Youth)
Foreign-based players to join later: Alfred Duncan (Inter Milan, Italy), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Sassuolo, Italy) Baba Rahman (Greuther Fürth, Germany)
The Ghana U-20 team known as ‘Black Satellites’ are one of the teams in favor of winning this tournament. They are the former victors of the U-20 World Cup as well as the African Youth Championship. They are the only African nation that have challenged the footballing giants of Europe and South America and have had success. The Ghanian team is filled with young talented players who blend their technique and skill on the ball with their sheer pace and determination. Their coach is Sellas Tetteh, who was in charge of the 2009 side that won both the African U-20 title as well as the World Cup. He has opted for mainly locally based players even with some options in Europe including Inter Milan’s Alfred Duncan. The Black Satellites will be without star players Andre Ayew, and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Will key players such as Lawrence Lartey, Ebenezer Assifuah, and Eric Ofori Antwi be able to stand out such as their predecessors did not so long ago?
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zach Steffen (FC DELCO; Downington, Pa.)
DEFENDERS: Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders; Seattle, Wash.)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)
FORWARDS: Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Danny Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Alonso Hernandez (C.F. Monterrey; El Paso, Texas), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)
The ‘Stars and Stripes’ will be making their 13th appearance since this competition. After missing out on the last finals in Colombia they have come more prepared than ever. They may not be one of the favorites to win this competition but they are currently at their pinnacle. The U.S.A are led by their engine and powerful force Benji Joya, an attacking midfielder who is naturally right-footed but he scores most of his goals with shots off his left. His orchestrations and link up play with Jose Villareal will be a vital part of this group. This squad is led by their coach Tab Ramos, who represented the States at the 1983 U-20 World Cup. This team will continue to prosper as the development of U.S. Soccer continues.
GOALKEEPERS: Alphonse Areola (París SG/L1), Paul Charruau (Valenciennes), Maxime Dupe (Nantes/L2)
DEFENDERS: Lucas Digne (Lille), Dimitri Foulquier (Rennes), Christopher Jullien (Auxerre), Jérôme Roussillon (Sochaux), Youssouf Sabaly (PSG), Mouhamadou Naby Sarr (Lyon), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne)
MIDFIELDERS: Geoffrey Kondogbia (Sevilla), Mario Lemina (Lorient), Axel Ngando Elessa (Rennes), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Jordan Veretout (Nantes)
FORWARDS: Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (Troyes), Alexy Bosetti (Nice), Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre), Florian Thauvin (Bastia), Thibaut Vion (Porto).
Last but not least we have the nucleus of youth football, France, also known as Les Bleuets. The French have never lacked talent. The recent uprisings of Pogba, Sevilla’s Kondogbia, Thauvin, Zouma and others have sparked a new age for French football. This is the first time that France have qualified for two consecutive FIFA U-20 World Cups. Having participated in the first-ever event, they had to endure a 20-year wait for their second appearance, and then another four for their third, followed by a decade-long gap before their fourth and most recent qualification, in 2011.(Fifa.com)They are led by Pierre Mankowski former assistant coach of the France National team. These group of players have experience and most have already played at the highest level. They play a 4-2-3-1 formation, designed to be compact and competitive in midfield with the tenacious partnerships of Kondogbia and Pogba, as well as the pace of the young 20-year old maestro/forward Florian Thauvin. A new renaissance and evolution has come to France and this team is at the center of it.
A new crop of fresh young talent will be at this respected tournament with the squads from the ‘Group of Death’ being at the quintessence of it. Its only a matter of time before they become world class players.
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