Europe's future football stars vie for U20 World Cup glory

Fiji's Thomas Dunn, left, and Slovakia's Mate Szolgai, go for a header during a FIFA U-20 World Cup in San Juan, Argentina, May 20, 2023
Fiji's Thomas Dunn, left, and Slovakia's Mate Szolgai, go for a header during a FIFA U-20 World Cup in San Juan, Argentina, May 20, 2023 Copyright AP Photo
By Sudesh Baniya with AP
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Players from five European nations will look to make their mark in this year's U20 World Cup which kicks off this weekend in Argentina.

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Europe's best young footballers are facing off against the rest of the world as the FIFA U20 World Cup gets underway in Argentina this weekend. 

Four cities in Argentina are hosting 24 teams from 20 May to 11 June, as the South American nation is still celebrating Lionel Messi and his national team’s 2022 World Cup triumph in Qatar.

Slovakia opened the scoreline for Europe, with a 4-0 win against Fiji on Saturday. Italy and Israel are in action late Sunday evening against Brazil and Colombia; while France and England begin their campaigns on Monday against South Korea and Tunisia respectively. 

Argentina agreed to host the tournament at the last minute, much to FIFA's relief, after protests in Muslim-majority Indonesia against hosting the Israel team forced the late switch of nations. 

The current U20 World Cup champions, Ukraine, are not taking part this year which makes England the favourites from Europe. 

England were U20 champions in 2017, and are bringing players who won the 2022 U19 European title. 

Notable inclusions of Chelsea midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka, Bristol City's Alex Scott, along with Manchester City's Liam Delap and Liverpool's promising centre-back Jarell Quansah have bolstered the English squad. 

Clubs needed to authorise their contracted players so they could be selected for the Under-20 World Cup, and many talented footballers from Europe will not take part in the tournament because they were not allowed.

Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Fiji goalkeeper Aydin Mustahib, left, and Slovakia's Adam Gazi, in U20 World Cup action in Argentina, 20 May 2023Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Italy, facing contenders Brazil in Group D, will have the services of Empoli's attacking midfielder Tommaso Baldanzi and Serie B club Cittadella's Giuseppe Ambrosino despite the limitations. 

France will have talented centre-back Tanguy Zoukrou and 20-year-old forward Alan Virginus and are the favourites to emerge from Group F. 

Slovakia, led by Cagliari's 193cm tall striker Adam Griger, are placed in Group B whereas debutants Israel will be alongside Colombia, Japan and Senegal in Group C. 

Boasting young talents like El Yam Kancepolsky and Ilay Madmon, Israel are led by coach Ofir Haim and were narrowly edged out by England in the European championships. 

European teams have won the latest four editions of the Under-20 World Cup, which is being staged for the 23rd time.

The youth tournament has been a vital platform for esteemed football players including Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Paul Pogba in the early phases of their careers.

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