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U20 WC groups - All you need to know

Senegal finished fourth at the Under-20 World Cup in 2015
Senegal finished fourth at the Under-20 World Cup in 2015

The FIFA Under-20 World Cup gets under way in South Korea on Saturday, with African representatives Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Guinea looking to shine on the global stage.

KweséESPN brings you a quick guide to the six groups, with the top two sides in each pool as well as the four best third-place finishers advancing to the knockout stages.


South Korea, Guinea, Argentina, England

Guinea have a tough draw against the hosts, the most successful side in the history of the competition and an England team that will have title aspirations of their own.

Argentina have six Under-20 World Cup titles, more than any other nation, though the last was in 2007, and are joint third favourites this year according to the bookies, behind European champions France and Germany.

Ezequiel Ponce, who has been on loan this season at Granada in Spain from Italian side Roma, is one to watch. He made his debut as a 16-year-old at Newell's Old Boys in his homeland.

South Korea warmed up for the finals with a 2-0 win over fancied Uruguay, following on from a 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabia, so are showing some good home form.

England have a number of promising stars, including Everton first-team player Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Liverpool duo of Sheyi Ojo and Ovie Ejaria, and Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Guinea finished third at the African Under-20 Championships played in Zambia earlier this year, beating South Africa to bronze.


Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico

Germany should be licking their lips at the sight of this group, even if their only previous gold medal at the Under-20 World Cup came all the way back in 1981.

In fact, their only other semifinal appearance came when they finished runners-up in 1987, making them serial under-achievers at this level over the past three decades compared to the senior national team.

Venezuela are appearing at just their second Under-20 World Cup after a previous visit in 2009 ended in a second-round exit, while Mexico have far more pedigree and a third-place finish in 2011. The tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu (population 286,000) have not only brought an inexperienced side, but a very young one too, with half of their squad aged 18 or younger.

Defender Jason Thomas and midfielder Bong Kalo have already played for the senior national team and in the Oceania Champions League.

They finished runners-up to New Zealand in the Oceania Under-20 Championships which they hosted last year, losing 5-0 in the final but qualifying for South Korea.


Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica

African champions Zambia will fancy their chances of advancing from the pool with tricky but very winnable matches in Group C.

Portugal present the biggest threat and are two-time winners of the Under-20 World Cup after back-to-back successes in 1989 and 1991, while they were also runners-up in 2011.

Not surprisingly perhaps, 17 of their 21-man squad are drawn from the 'Big Three' in the country -- Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto -- all fine academies that know how to produce top talent.

Iran will be organised and compact, but like their senior side are limited going forward and rather rely on quick transitions and feeding off errors from opponents.They have qualified for the finals for just the second time having lost all three of their pool matches in 2001.

Costa Rica finished fourth in 2009 but did not qualify for the last two events before this one. Belgian-based midfielder Randall Leal is a key man for them.

Zambia have managed to secure the release of a number of their overseas-based players, including Austrian-based striker Patson Daka and winger Fashion Sakala, who plies his trade in Russia.


South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay

An extremely tough group for South Africa, who finished fourth at the African Under-20 Championships in Zambia.

Uruguay are among the pre-tournament favourites and have managed to secure the release of Boca Juniors midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur, who will be joining Italian giants Juventus in July. The Uruguayans finished top of South American qualifying, knocking Brazil out of the running for a place in South Korea.

Italy have an experienced side at this level, including another Juventus player in Rolando Mandragora, who helped the club win the Coppa Italia this season. They will be organised and difficult to break down.

Japan should have plenty of support in South Korea, a short journey from Tokyo, and they too have players with great experience at club level such as midfielders Keita Endo and Ryo Hatsuse.

South Africa have battled with the release of key players and are definitely without the exciting Phakamani Mahlambi, who is ruled out by injury. Winger Luther Singh remains their talisman though and he scored in a 2-1 friendly win over Costa Rica.


France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand

France are overwhelming favourites in this pool and also the bookies' tip for the title having been excellent on their way to lifting the European Under-19 title last year.

They have a squad packed with talent, including 19-year-old striker Marcus Thuram, the son of French World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, who played 142 times for his country over 14 years.

This will be the seventh Under-20 World Cup for Honduras, though they have yet to make it out the group phase with only four wins in their 18 matches since a first appearance in 1977. They finished runners-up in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championships -- their best showing since they were champions in 1994. Vietnam have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in their history, but are not expected to provide much resistance.

New Zealand have now qualified for five of the last six tournaments, but have been to the second round just once. They have a number of players who ply their trade in the USA, as well as Blackpool midfielder Henry Cameron.


Ecuador, United States, Saudi Arabia, Senegal

Senegal will fancy their chances of getting out of Group F and given their fourth-place finish at the last finals in New Zealand two years ago, could even be considered favourites to advance.

Ecuador are making a third appearance at the World Cup and exited in the second round in both 2001 and 2011. They finished second at the South American Youth Championships they hosted earlier this year and have Atalanta-based midfielder Bryan Cabezas as a prolific scorer.

The USA have included goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann, the son of legendary former Germany striker Jurgen, and he is a likely starter having been given the number one jersey. They also have a couple of youngsters who ply their trade in North London in the form of midfielder Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur).

They are regular qualifiers for the World Cup, and made the quarterfinals two years ago. Their best finish was fourth in 1989.

Saudi Arabia are back at the World Cup for the first time since they made the second round in 2011.

Senegal were runners-up at the 2017 African Under-20 Championships and as ever are packed with powerful, skillful players, with lots of pace through the team. They are perhaps the most accomplished of the African sides on display.


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