Can the US make it through the group stage of FIFA U-20 World Cup?
By Marco Fumagalli
It’s sunny in Istanbul, the temperatures are in the 80s and everything seems slowly getting ready for the opening day on 21 June of the 19th edition of the U-20 FIFA World Cup. Although people around are far from being focus on this major competition, eyes and ears are directed at the events of these last days around Turkey.
With only a few days left before kickoff, let’s look at the chances that the US Team has of passing the group stage.
The tournament has 6 groups of 4 teams; the top two seeded teams from each group after round robin play will directly qualify for the knockout stage beginning with a round of 16. The best four third seeded teams from each group will also qualify; ranking criteria will be the points obtained in the group matches, goal difference, number of goals scored and last a draw.
The US were not lucky at all at the draw as they are facing what is considered to be the group of death with Spain, France and Ghana who are three of the heavy favorites to make the final victory of the tournament due to the absence of both Argentina and Brazil!
Here’s a very quick resume of the opponents the US U20 team will face.
Spain is the 2012 UEFA European U19 Champions and can count on a talented team headed by young stars such as Barcelona’s forward Deulofeu and Real Madrid’s winger Jese. NeedI say more?
Meanwhile France who lost to Spain in the semi-final of the 2012 UEFA European U19 Championship can count on Juventus’ midfielder Paul Pogba among others.
Ghana was the finalist at 2013 African U20 Championship and only lost to Eygpt on penalties; the US will have to watch carefully their forward Boakye who belongs to Juventus but played last season on loan with Sassuolo where his goals helped promote them to Serie A. Midfielder Duncan from Inter is also to be watched closely.
The schedule has the US playing Spain in their opening match on 21 June, then they face France on the 24th and finally Ghana on the 27th in what will probably be a key match to keep the chances of passing the round alive.
All the games of the group will be played in the amazing 52,000 all seater Ali Sami Yen Arena, which hosts Galatasaray except Ghana-USA which will be played in Kayseri.
With the other 5 groups being easier and more even, the chances of advancing out of the round with 3 points and a negative goals difference seems very unlikely. If we assume that Spain will win the group with 9 points, a tie against France and a victory against Ghana would definitely put the US through the next stage.
Coach Tab Ramos can count on an explosive frontline of Rodriguez, Villarreal and Cuevas while Cody Cropper will be vital between the posts. The eyes of world scouts will be on midfielder Hector Joya who’s expected to be the brain of this team on the pitch.
This is the U20 World Cup: anything can happen and usually does. Game on!