The United States men’s U20 World Cup journey begins Monday in South Korea with a matchup against a highly rated Ecuador team missing key players to injury and unavailability.
The Young Yanks landed in South Korea as CONCACAF Champions and hoping to at least equal the 2015 American team’s quarterfinal run that saw the U.S. bow out of the tournament on penalty kicks versus eventual champions Serbia. Youth tournaments are notoriously tricky to handicap, however, consider that Serbia failed to qualify.
Or take a look at Saturday’s stunning opening day results. England earned its first win at a U20 World Cup since 1997, beating six-time champion Argentina 3-0. That is so long ago that 17-year-old rising star Michael Owen was England’s goalscorer in that long ago 1-0 win over Mexico.
The game also was notable for the referee’s use of video review to hand Argentina’s Lauturo Martinez a straight red for what would have otherwise been an unseen elbow to England’s Fikayo Tomori.
Argentina had controlled much of the play to that point but was unable to convert that advantage into goals while England took its chances.
Germany can’t match Argentina’s success rate at the U20 level, having claimed the prize just once back in 1981 when it was called the FIFA World Youth Championship. Still, Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Venezuela registers as an upset as does seeing the Germans at the bottom of the Group B table behind Venezuela Mexico, and Vanuatu.
Yes, Vanuatu. Playing in its first ever FIFA tournament match the South Pacific island nation came oh so close to shocking Mexico and picking up a point, falling on an El Tri goal deep into stoppage time.
Trailing Mexico 2-0 by the 25th minute the underdogs showed tremendous character to fight their way back into the match with goals from Bong Kolo and Ronaldo Wilkins in the 52nd and 62nd minutes.
Mexico kept its nerve and Edson Alvarez scored the winner four minutes into added time to claim the win for the favorites setting up a fascinating second round in Group B when Germany face Mexico and Venezuela take on the tournament darlings from Vanuatu.