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Europe, News, Under 21s

FIFA U20 World Cup Preview – Group A

France against Spain looks to be the eyecatching contest in Group A, but Ghana and USA will not back down easily and provide strong competition in what could be considered the group of death.

Lucas Digne was once wanted by Manchester United.

Lucas Digne was once wanted by Manchester United.

France

France have underachieved in this competition for decades but some hope was shone on a new generation when they finished fourth in the 2011 tournament – before that they hadn’t qualified since 2001. However, this year’s squad offers more hope than ever. With the French Under 21s failing to qualify for the European Championship in Israel, it has offered a select number of players to the Under 20 side including big names such as Samuel Umtiti, Paul Pogba and Lucas Digne. Umtiti has established his place in Lyon’s first-team this season, as has Digne at Lille. Pogba has been almost ever-present at Juventus this season and at 20-years-old already has a Serie A winners medal to his name. The ex-Manchester United Frenchman fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson at United, prompting the move to the Italian giants. France’s chances look very good in this competition if they can survive this group.

Ghana

Ghana will be looking to emulate the form that saw them win the competition in 2009. The Black Stars coach Sallas Tetteh, who led the side to that triumph four years ago has opted mainly for local players playing their trade in Ghana but has chosen one or two foreign-based players that are bound to lead the show for the Africans. Joseph Duncan of Inter Milan (on loan at Livorno) will look to inspire the squad with some experience from a high-calibre league. More locally,¬†Ebenezer Assifuah stood out for the Ghanaians in qualification up front, netting in all three of Ghana’s group games in the African U20 Championship.

Watch the video below for highlights of Ghana’s 2009 win, where they beat Brazil in the final on penalties.

USA

The United States are no stranger to the Under 20 competition. Their failure to qualify in 2011 was the first time they’ve done so since 1995. Their best performance during those years of consistency was 2003 and 2007, where they reached the quarter finals on both occasions. Hector Joya and Jose Villarreal of Santos Laguna and Los Angeles Galaxy respectively are their key players in the midfield and up front. Cody Cropper between the sticks offers some familiarity for English fans – the 20-year-old plays his club football at Southampton. Although I can’t see this side winning the tournament as a whole, they should provide a stiff test for anybody they come up against and could be a difficult stumbling block for the big names of Spain and France in this group.

The Liverpool midfielder is Spain's man to watch.

The Liverpool midfielder is Spain’s man to watch.

Spain

Can Spain continue their dominance throughout youth football in this competition? Why not. The squad is as star-studded as ever with household names throughout all positions. Suso, Denis Suarez, Gerard Deulofeu and Paco Alcacer provide familiar faces in a side that has struggled in this competition of late. They have only won the title once (in 1999) but that is sure to change this year. The bulk of the squad won the 2012 European Under 19 Championship, making the Spaniards one of the favourites to triumph in Turkey. Suso is probably Spain’s key player. The Liverpool midfielder has been on the brink of the first team at Anfield for much of the season and established himself as a regular by the end. Spain would be my favourites to lift the trophy in July.

Watch highlights of Spain’s under 19 squad win the 2012 European Under 19 Championship, of which most of the team will play in this competition.

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About Tom Bennett

I'm a 21-year-old Multimedia Journalism student at Bournemouth University aspiring to be one of Britain's top sports journalists. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for contact and further information.

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  1. Pingback: FIFA U20 World Cup Final Preview: France v Uruguay | The Youth Radar - July 13, 2013

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