The Under 20 World Cup Starts Very Soon in its New Host: Argentina
On May 20, the Men’s Under 20 (U20) World Cup, the highest level of U20 soccer in the world, will begin, lasting until June 11 in Argentina. Matches will be played in La Plata, Santiago del Estero, Mendoza, and San Juan. This will be the first time that the tournament is played in South America since 2011 when it was played in Colombia.
Every 4 years, the U20 World Cup is watched and analyzed by hundreds of clubs, scouting for the next wonder kid. Ever since its inception in 1977 in Tunisia, legends have been born in this tournament: Maradona in 1979, Messi in 2005, Aguero in 2007, etc. For the dozens of players playing this decisive Summer, this tournament will be the single biggest chance for them to break out into the world stage.
There are 4 groups with 6 teams each, and the top 2 in each group qualify for the knockout stages. The 4 best third-place teams by points and goal differential will also qualify for the knockout stages. This will be a big deal for Miami, as several diaspora countries will be competing, along with the U.S., including Argentina, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Uruguay. Based on previous results in the past year of performances and lineups, I believe that Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Colombia all have a solid chance of winning the World Cup. This is what the groups look like:
Group A: Argentina, Uzbekistan, Guatemala, New Zealand
Group B: USA, Ecuador, Fiji, Slovakia
Group C: Senegal, Japan, Israel, Colombia
Group D: Italy, Brazil, Nigeria, Dominican Republic
Group E: Uruguay, Iraq, England, Tunisia
Group F: France, Korea, The Gambia, Honduras
For Guatemala, the team will have to beat Uzbekistan and New Zealand to qualify for the knockout stages, which should be possible. The USA and Ecuador will easily qualify for the knockout stages, and Fiji and Slovakia are both very minor countries. Colombia will face some unexpectedly strong competition, as all its opponents finished first or second in each of their continental tournaments. However, they should be able to at least earn the top 4 third-place spot. Sadly, the Dominican Republic’s chances of qualifying are abysmal at best. The country’s only minuscule chance is to place in the top 4 third-place teams. Uruguay should place top 2 in its group and finally Honduras has a solid chance of beating The Gambia and Korea.
Recently, the participation of Israel has caused controversy between FIFA and the government of Indonesia, which supports Palestine and has no diplomatic relations with Israel. The Indonesian government refused to host Israel, leading to FIFA changing the venue of the tournament to Argentina. Consequently, this also led to the Indonesian team being replaced in the tournament by the Argentinian team, which did not originally qualify. This has created an awkward situation where less than a week before the competition, there is still no new official logo. Additionally, the official song featuring several Indonesian artists was still released after the change of venue.
Aside from the controversy surrounding Israel’s participation in the tournament, Indonesia had already been under fire for a stampede that occurred during a soccer match in East Java, where 135 spectators were killed. The Incident, which occurred in Kanjuruhan Stadium, was caused by the misuse of tear gas by police to stop hooligans running on the field, causing a stampede of innocents trying to escape the gas, where more than 100 died and 583 left with injuries. Behind the 1964 Estadio Nacional disaster in Peru, the Kanjuruhan Stadium disaster is the second deadliest incident surrounding soccer in history.
Sadly, politics and money always end up meddling with the affairs of the beautiful game, leading to situations just like this one. Corruption and political dealings have led to the public embarrassment that is the state of FIFA today. Competitions like these aren’t just games, but also celebrations of colorful cultures from all over the world and their best athletes.
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