Portugal look favourites to triumph in Group B in this year’s competition but will have tough tests against Korea Republic and Nigeria on their way. Cuba meanwhile will be looking to cause an upset in Turkey as they enter the group as underdogs.
Cuba’s squad is completely made up of home-based players who will represent the side in their first ever international youth tournament on the world stage. They managed a fourth-place finish at the CONCACAF qualifying tournament to secure their passage through to Turkey. Although they’re not expected to turn any heads at the competition, they will leave a country supporting from back home feeling proud of their achievement of even reaching Turkey. “This is a great triumph for Cuba football as a whole,” said Cuba’s FA President Luis Hernandez to FIFA.com. “It’s a dream for us to go to Turkey because there is an awful lot of competition at this level.” Their spirit will be fuelled off their victory over Costa Rica, which saw them reach the finals – they went into that game as huge underdogs but managed to carve out a result. Aricheell Hernandez seems to be a key man for the Caribbean nation.
Watch below Cuba’s victory over Costa Rica earlier this year. Cuba play in red, in case you were unaware.
Kang Yunkoo is Korea’s only player not playing his football domestically coming into this tournament. The Vissel Kobe defender plays Japanese football and is one of few players that don’t play university football. Korea have 13 players that play affiliated to university sides – a sign of not only their culture but football philosophy. This means we should expect some tactical play from the Koreans who may use their brains as a secret weapon to progress. Their tactics haven’t been far off in the past. They qualified by winning the Asian Under 19 Championship and are playing in their sixth successive FIFA U20 World Cup. The Koreans have been heavily praised in the past for their national pride and do-or-die attitude.
Read a piece from IBWM on Korea’s last FIFA U20 World Cup performance here.
Expect goals from this Portugal side. They were the most potent in continental qualifying, racking up a total of 37 goals and made it through to Turkey by finishing third in their group at the European Under 19 Championship 2012, finishing marginally behind Greece in their group to be denied a semi final spot. One of their most exciting talents on show is Sporting striker Bruma (full name, Armindo Tué Na Bangna) who is only 18-years-old but already a first-team regular at the Portuguese club and has played thirteen times in their senior ranks. He has scored 12 times in 33 appearances for the under-19 side and 22 times since 2008 in all youth competitions for Portugal. They’ve got to be favourites to take this group – I’d put good money on it.
Nigeria will fancy themselves as the top candidate to stand in Portugal’s way en route to winning this group. The African nation beat Mali to finish third in their continent’s qualifying tournament. Their performance in that suggests they have some work to do though as they started the competition badly and were convincingly beaten by Egypt in their semi-final game. Olarenwaju Kayode will be leading the line hoping to bring goals to their game, drafting in experience from a spot in Nigeria’s Olympic squad last year. Aminu Umar is also a key figure as he scored both goals in their third place play off against Mali.
Check out no.9 Kayode in this video below.