29th July, 2011
As the 18th edition of the World Youth Championship, WYC, begins today in Colombia, the attention of football fans across the globe would be on the 24 teams participating at the biennial soccer fiesta. The competition will hold in eight cities in Colombia namely: Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogota, Cali, Cartegena, Manizales, Medellin and Pereira. Six teams are representing Europe, Africa has four teams, while South America provides five teams for the championship. North America, Asia and Oceania have four, three and two teams respectively.
WYC has produced only eight nations as champions. Argentina is the most successful team with six titles, followed by Brazil with four titles. Portugal won two titles, while Ghana, Germany, Spain, and formerly existing nations Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have won the title once each. The competition has produced many great footballers, who include Diego Maradona, Oleg Salenko, Luis Figo, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi.
The competitionâ€™s various coaches will have different game plans, though their personal goals can hardly be said to differ. Most of the coaches nurture the dreams of emerging triumphant, while few wants to prepare their lads for a future in the game.
One of the most interesting matches in Colombia 2011 will be between Argentina and Mexico. Both teams return to FIFA U-20 World Cup finals action tomorrow after an absence of four years. The pair last appearance at the main event was at Canada 2007, where, interestingly, they met at the quarter-final stage. It was the Albiceleste who won that day, before going on to lift the trophy. They will no doubt put the new El TricolorÂ side to the test once again in their opening match in Group F.
Argentina need to rely on the services of their star players, Erik Lamela, who plays for Roma of Italy and Juan Itube of FC Porto, while Mexico will depend on the services of Ulises Davila.
Nigeriaâ€™s Flying Eagles will have their hands full in Group D, where they will play teams from Guatemala, Saudi Arabia and Croatia. Much is expected from John Obuh and his team to either meet up with the Holland 2007 feat of Samson Siasia and his team or surpass the record.
The Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, has told the coach that he should not fail the country. Notwithstanding the outing at the Four-Nations Tournament in Panama, Obuh is expected to do well in the youth tournament.
Another anticipating game is the match between Brazil and Egypt. The Brazilians are in high spirits after taking the South American title earlier in the year, and not even the absence of Neymar and Lucas, who have been on Copa America duty, has unsettled coach Ney Franco.
Having drafted Inter Milanâ€™s Philippe Coutinho into the squad, Franco is aiming to land Brazilâ€™s fourth world title in the category and will be looking to the likes of Casemiro, Oscar and Danilo, who all held down first-team places with their clubs during the domestic season, to maintain the nationâ€™s high standards.
Egypt may have a less impressive record in the competition. Egypt nevertheless finished third at Portugal 1991, reached the last 16 on home soil in 2009 and have only failed on two occasions to progress beyond the group phase in six attempts. The Egyptians should not be lacking in motivation this time around either, with coach El Sayed Diaa banking on the playmaking skills of Mohamed Hamdy and the solid goalkeeping of Ahmed Elshenawi to inspire them to the knockout rounds.
Another thrilling encounter at this year WYC will be the Group F contest between European giants England and Asian Football Confederation, AFC, U-19 champions Korea DPR. The game is something of an unknown quantity, and with the result in doubt, either side would be relieved if they made it through with three points. No one would suggest that English football is in poor shape, but the fact remains that England have yet to record major success in a FIFA U-20 World Cup. In seven attempts they have never bettered the third-place finish they managed in Australia back in 1993, and in the last edition in Egypt they went out after the group stages, having taken just one point from their three games. Coach Brian Eastick can draw on the experience of the six players who were part of the England side that qualified for Colombia with a semi-final finish at last yearâ€™s UEFA U-19 European Championship.
Korea DPR, meanwhile, are making only their second appearance at the premier youth championship, but they managed it in some style, winning the AFC U-19 Championship last year and beating a number of more fancied teams like Australia, Korea Republic and Iraq in the process. Coach Jo Tong Sop will be looking to keep the surprises coming.
The world will be busied for the next three weeks with scintillating games and surprise results starting from the preliminary matches to the final of the competition.