International competition returns to South Korea 15 years after the nation hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. This time round, the Republic of Korea will host a selection of the world’s best youth squads in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, who will be competing to prove themselves as one of football’s best up-and-coming sides.
The tournament, set to take place between May 20th and June 11th, will see a total of 24 teams take part, including Argentina, Uruguay, England, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal, all of which have an abundance of talent at their disposal.
Teams will first be drawn into six groups of four, with each side playing three group games to determine whether they qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament. The two top sides from each group with go through, as well as four of the best third placed sides, leaving 16 remaining sides left to play their way to the final.
The youth tournament should prove to be an exciting one for neutral fans, given that there are usually plenty of twists and turns along the way. There has been a new champion in each of the last five tournaments and 2017 is guaranteed to make that six in six. Current holders Serbia failed to make the cut this time around, meaning that they miss out on the chance to defend their title, as did the four other teams that finished as champions before them.
On that note, predicting who will emerge victorious is incredibly challenging. Yet, these three teams are being tipped for the trophy:
Francis Smerecki’s side have been made favourites to win the tournament by the bookies, which, if their prediction proves true, would make France the first team to lift the trophy twice since it was rebranded back in 2007.
They lifted the UEFA European Under-19 Championship trophy last year, toppling the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy along the way. That tournament is always a good indication of how European sides will perform at the U-20 World Cup, yet history tells us that the favourites tag doesn’t usually bode well at this event.
Like France, Uruguay enter the tournament as South America’s favourites, having secured qualification by winning the 2017 South American Youth Football Championship, held between January and February.
Fabián Coito’s side will have began preparations for the World Cup shortly after returning home from the South American tournament and will be raring to go as they pursue their second title of 2017.
Going by their showing at the South American Youth Football Championship earlier this year, Argentina are unlikely to match the likes of France and Uruguay at the World Cup event. They finished fourth, which wasn’t enough to secure one of the continent’s three automatic World Cup spots and were left to play a deciding game against Brazil for the final spot.
Despite trailing 2-1 deep into stoppage time, Argentina put the ball in the back of the net with just seconds remaining. They were far from impressive for large parts of the game, but their desire to fight right until the end could make all the difference in Korea this summer.