7 future stars to watch out for at the 2015 FIFA 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 Prosine?ki, 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.
1) 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’.
2) 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 result 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.
3) 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 is 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.