Angel Correa will be one of the stars of the U-20 World Cup
The 2015 U-20 World Cup kicks off in New Zealand today when the hosts face Ukraine in Auckland. The tournament has historically been a platform for the most promising players in world football to showcase their burgeoning talents.
Names such as Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba, Robert Prosinečki, Daniel Alves, Lionel Messi, and Diego Maradona have all made an impact at the tournament since its inception in 1977.
Here are seven players looking to further their reputation, and make a name for themselves in this year’s competition -
Ángel Correa – Argentina
When Ángel Correa signed for Atlético Madrid in the summer of 2014, a medical examination found a benign tumour on his heart which required surgery. There was no immediate threat, but it was something which could cause serious health problems further down the line, and meant he spent most of 2014 recovering from the operation.
After this challenging start to his career in Europe, having moved to Spain from the Argentine side San Lorenzo, Correa announced himself to the world at the South American U-20 Championship earlier this year.
His tricky play in the final third, combined with the goal scoring exploits of Diego Simeone’s son Giovanni, saw Argentina win the competition with Correa their stand-out player. They’ll be looking to repeat this success in New Zealand, and if their clever, skilful, diminutive right-footed attacker is on his game, the South American champions could go far.
Either way, his club have one of the most exciting young players in the world on their hands and look set to be rewarded for their early diligence. A young Argentine forward whose first European Club is Atlético Madrid…? No wonder he's been dubbed the new Aguero.
Aboagye will look to continue his great progress with Ghana
Clifford Aboagye – Ghana
Like Correa, 20-year-old Ghanaian Clifford Aboagye isn’t the tallest of players, but what he lacks in height he more than makes up for in guile and quick thinking on the ball. He’ll cause endless problems for even the most physical of defenders in this age group, as he works between the lines off the ball and looks for the runs of others once he has it.
It’s here that his link-up play with striker Yaw Yeboah will be vital for his side, and the form of the pair throughout this tournament will be as important to Ghana as Correa and Simeone are for Argentina.
Aboagye also has the ability to score goals of his own when given the chance, as he showed during the African U-20 Championships in March.
His solo effort in his side’s 3-1 against Mali saw him anticipate a loose ball in midfield, then dart towards the opposition goal to finish coolly with his stronger right foot. The Mali defence didn’t have time to even think about fouling him.
Two years ago, the young midfielder, who spent last season on loan at Granada from Udinese, was voted the third best player in the 2013 U-20 World Cup, as he guided Ghana to a third place finish. No doubt both team and player will be looking to improve on that this time.
Comparisons are always unhelpful to young players, so it’s best not to make any, but yes, he has been compared to Andres Iniesta.
Julian Brandt is a very flexible forward and is very calm for a 19-year-old
Julian Brandt – Germany
Bayer Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt has had an up and down season in the Bundesliga, but he’s shown enough promise during his mixture of starts and substitute appearances to alert some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Whilst he hasn’t been a regular starter for his club, he now has the chance to be the main man in this Germany U-20 side. It’s testament to Brandt’s application that he’s already playing semi-regularly for a club side in a top league, as there are many players in this tournament who aren’t playing at that level week in, week out.
Standing at over 6 feet (185cm), and with pace to burn, he’s the ideal modern day inside forward. Part winger, part striker, part attacking midfielder, the 19-year-old is tailor-made for a flexible, interchanging front three.
The right-footer was part of the German U-19 side which won the 2014 European Under-19 Championship, and he’s an experienced campaigner at international youth level.
It’s no surprise that other European clubs are interested in him, and even less of a surprise that the club at the top of the Bundesliga’s food chain, Bayern Munich, have an eye on the player. Should the Bavarian club snap him up, they’d be hoping that he can one day do on the left of the pitch, what Robben does on the right.
Zivkovic is the youngest to have played for Serbia’s senior team, making his debut at the age of 17
Andrija Živković – Serbia
Aged just eighteen years, Andrija Živković has already represented his country at senior level, becoming his country’s youngest ever player at the age of seventeen, and is also an established player for his club side, FK Partizan of Belgrade.
The left-footed attacking midfielder has been a regular at his club for the past two seasons, having made his debut in 2013 at the age of sixteen.
All this means that, like Julian Brandt, he’s one of the more experienced players at the tournament, and he’ll be expected to consistently impress in order to take his game to the next level.
He’s also another one of the talents who’ll have the scouts queueing up to watch his games, and an impressive performance in New Zealand could see a fight for his signature as the 2015/16 season looms.
Possessing great technique and good dribbling ability, Živković is probably best utilised as an inverted winger cutting in from the right onto his left foot. However, as he progresses he could also be used in a central role, either as a number ten or a second striker, and also as a more traditional left winger, working his way into the box via the byline before finding a team-mate or shooting himself.
The possibilities are endless, such is his natural ability, and football fans can expect to see more of the exciting Serbian in the future.
Iheanacho is making waves for Manchester City, and will shine at the U-20 World Cup
Kelechi Iheanacho – Nigeria
Kelechi Iheanacho is a strong, pacy, left-footed forward, who currently resides in Manchester City’s youth ranks. He’s part of a Nigeria side which boasts several promising young stars, and much will be expected of them in what is gearing up to be a competitive tournament.
Iheanacho will wear the number ten shirt, but rather than play from the attacking midfield position his shirt number suggests, he’s most effective playing as a forward along the front line.
Along with striker Isaac Success and winger Moses Simon, the 18-year-old will be hoping to drive his side to the latter stages with plenty of goals as he did in the 2013 U-17 World Cup. It was at this tournament in the UAE, that he won the best player award, as well as contributing to half of his team’s goals, scoring six and assisting seven.
Whilst many players will be looking to impress visiting scouts, the Nigerian will be looking to persuade Manchester City’s staff that he’s worth a place in their first team squad for the 2015/16 season.
Gabriel Boschilia will be Brazil’s most important player at the U-20 World Cup
Gabriel Boschilia – Brazil
Another player looking to build on an impressive performance in the 2013 competition is Brazil’s Gabriel Boschilia. The versatile attacking midfielder plays his club football for São Paulo and has appeared in their first team on numerous occasions since announcing himself at the aforementioned youth tournament.
This Brazil side doesn’t contain as many overhyped wonderkids as previous squads, and the understated billing might suit them as they look to build a functional squad with flair up front.
Busy left-footer Boschilia will be one of the players expected to make things happen, and his direct attacking from midfield could create goalscoring opportunities for himself and his team-mates.
Gedion Zelalem will represent the United States, and would want a good start at the U-20 World Cup
Gedion Zelalem – United States
Perhaps the wildcard in this list, Gedion Zelalem might not even make the US side at the start of the tournament, but he’s one of those who could come into his own as the competition progresses and squads are rotated.
Zelalem was born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, moved to the US aged nine, and now plays his club football for the Arsenal youth team in England. Now he’s pledged his international future to the US, the nation’s soccer fans will be hoping he can bring his technical gifts first to the under-20s, and eventually to the senior side.
As well as his good technique, the 18-year-old is tactically good for his age and is good at retaining the ball in midfield areas. He’ll put a foot in if required, but he’s been picked up by a club like Arsenal thanks to his passing ability and intelligence in the centre of the park.
He's definitely one to watch as the United States continue to strive to become a force on the international stage.
Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here