One weekend, three games, all the information.
For the last time this season, the weekend guide is here. After 19 editions, over 50 countries, and hundred of teams, it's time to say: It was fun, it was exciting, but.. see you later!
Don't worry, when we finish a phase, we always take a deep look for the future. This is the reason we took the long flight to New Zealand, in order to visit the U-20 World Cup. We will watch some of the biggest stars of the future and some of the greatest stories of the present.
Saturday, 0600, Argentina – Panama
One of the biggest titles a team can hold while arriving this competition, is the South American champions. With this title, Argentina will try to win the U-20 title for the 7th time, a hard mission by accounts. Their first match will be against Panama, the COCACAF Championship runner-ups.
Argentina made a great run to win the South American championship. Seven wins in nine matches, 24 goals for and just seven goals against, are few of the numbers that led Argentina the victory, and now they are the obvious favorites in this World Cup. After they failed to qualify to the last tournament, Humberto Grondona, the son of the former Argentine Football Association, Julio, was appointed as the new manager. Few players in the squad already played for Grondona in the U-17 team who also conquered the continental trophy. One of the biggest names of the team is Giovanni Simeone, son of Diego Simeone, was the leading scorer of the South American tournament with nine goals. Watch also for Ángel Correa, the captain who scored the decisive goal at the final, and Augusto Batalla, one of the most promising goalkeepers in the world.
The football in Panama is in a process of improvement. The country qualified to four out of the previous six tournaments, and now they made it once again. Their CONCACAF Championship campaign was sensational when they finished the first round with five wins in five games, including 1:0 against United States. They almost won the title, but lost by penalty shootouts gave the title to Mexico. Except from two players, all the squad is based in the domestic league and its stars are Luis Pereira and Jaime de Garcia, who won the Golden Ball and the Golden Glove titles in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, and Chin Hormechea, one of the dominant players of the local team Arabe Unido.
Argentina, one of the best football nations in the world, will try to win the U-20 World Cup once again. Will they go through their first match in a positive way?
Sunday, 0300, Qatar – Colombia
Unless there will be any surprising change, Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup. The Middle Eastern country was never qualified for the tournament, but is now cultivating its players for the occasion. From the other side, Colombia wants their next generation will join Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, in becoming a new worldwide power. It is the 3rd appearance for Qatar in the competition. Their AFC U-19 Championship campaign was finished with their first ever title, winning 1:0 against North Korea. In order to improve the young Qatari prospects, the football association have appointed Félix Sánchez Bas, former Barcelona academy coach, and now part of ASPIRE Academy's staff. Not only that the academy supply the best coaches they can, but also the best players are traveling to foreign academies like the Austrian LASK Linz and the Belgian Eupen, which co-operates with ASPIRE. The leading players of the team are Ahmed Moein Doozandeh, the AFC U-19 tournament’s MVP, Ahmed Al Saadi, the tournament’s top scorer, and Akram Afif, who scored the winning goal in the final.
Colombia sees the qualification for this competition as a tool to improve their growing national players’ pool. The 80's generation was the basis for the Colombian golden generation in the 90's, and as the players of the last decade were the basis for the current Colombian squad, this team is tipped to be the future of the Colombian football. Colombia finished second at the South American Championship, making great results in the final stage like draws against Argentina and Uruguay and a victory over Brazil. The stars of the team are Andrés Tello and Alexis Zapata, who both plays abroad in Italy, Jeison Lucumí, one of the dominant players of América de Cali last season, and Joao Rodríguez, who’s a Chelsea player that getting experience in loans around Europe.
Two teams with big hopes for the future, this is a chance to see the future of the football in two of the emerging nations of the game.
Monday, 0300, Nigeria – Brazil
Nigeria and Brazil are two teams which always have the biggest prospects in the U-20 World Cups. Scouts from all over the world will watch this game, knowing that some of them will be the future stars of the biggest clubs in football. It will be the 4th meeting of the teams in the U-20 World Cups, and the record is in favor for Brazil: three wins and single draw.
Nigeria, the reigning African champions, wants to make history and finally win the U-20 World Cup. They qualified twice for the final, and in both of them they lost to two legendary teams – Portugal in 1989 (with players like Fernando Couto and Paulo Sousa) and Argentina in 2005 (with Lionel Messi and Pablo Zabaleta). This time, Nigeria is coming after winning the Continental title against Senegal. The coach, Manu Garba, led the U-17 team to winning the World Cup two years ago, and now he wishes to do it once again. You can find in the Nigerian squad one player that already made two caps for the senior team, Moses Simon, who won the Belgian championship with Gent. Other key players that were part from the African title winning squad are Musa Muhammed from Beşiktaş and of course, 18 years old Kelechi Iheanacho, the exciting talent of Manchester City, who was the star of the Super Eagles U-17.
After their absence from the last World Cup, Brazil will try to win the title for the 6th time. Their qualification was difficult, as the team failed to win against Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia, and eventually finished 4th, the last qualifying spot. That's not their only problem. Alexandre Gallo was the coach who decided the squad, but in the beginning of May, the CBF decided that Gallo will be fired and replaced by Rogério Micale. Anyways, Brazil has lots of quality.
Danilo, who played his debut season abroad in Braga, Marcos Guilherme, who was the leading scorer of Brazil in the South American U-20 Championship, and Boschilia, who won the Bronze Boot in the U-17 World Cup two years ago, are the main figures in the squad.
Brazil and Nigeria are always supplying many of the biggest promises of the worldwide football, and this is the chance to see some of them.
Bonus Match – Monday, 0300, Germany – Fiji
In this match, we will focus the interesting story of the team from Fiji.
As New Zealand is the host of the competition, the Oceanian teams have a great chance to make a historic appearance in the tournament. A great OFC Oceanian Championship led Fiji for the sensational title and a qualification to the World Cup. The staff of Fiji is led by a local coach, Ravinesh Kumar. The team also guided by the senior team coach, Frank Farina, who recently was appointed for the job. Some of the interesting names are Saula Waqa, who scored five goals in the OFC Champions League in this season for Ba, Nickel Chand, who was dominant in Suva's Champions League campaign, and Praneel Naidu, one of the experienced players in the squad with 19 caps for the U-20 team.