This group is going to be one of the toughest to call. Mexico, Paraguay and Greece all have very good causes why they should progress to the next round. Unfortunately, I cannot see much hope for Mali in this tournament, even if they perform well, this group is just too strong.
Sergio Almaguer’s side are shaping up to be one of the favourites to take this tournament. Mexico have put a lot of money and focus into youth development over the past few years and have been rewarded with two world under-17 titles and a prestigious Olympic gold medal at London 2012. The Under 20 team breezed through CONCACAF qualification – winning the continental competition. Jesus Corona was one of the driving forces that brought them that success. Playing his trade in Mexico for Monterrey, he scored three goals in four appearances in the CONCACAF competition and will be hopeful of continuing that sort of European attention-grabbing form in Turkey this month. Antonio Briseno is their solid rock at the back but has a goalscoring pedigree, scoring twice in a 2-0 victory against El Salvador while on course to winning their qualification competition.
Check out an absolute ‘golazo’ by Mexico’s Julio Gomez in a victory over USA in their CONCACAF U20 campaign.
According to FIFA’s official squad lists, Greece have named a whopping nine defenders in their squad compared to only four midfielders – any guesses for what their game will be? But whatever tactics they’re going to employ it seems to work. They finished runners-up at the 2012 European Under 19 Championship, losing narrowly to Spain in the final. They scored nine goals over three group games before beating England in the semi finals. Dimitris Diamantakos netted three goals in that tournament, only pipped to the top scorer gong by Spain’s Jese Rodriguez, so will be a key player if they are to rack up the goals in this group. With strong tests to come against Mexico and Paraguay, they may be relying on the game against Mali to up their tally.
Paraguay are another team you should be familiar with if you have been following The Youth Radar closely. Matias Perez and Derlis Gonzalez are two absolutely vital players to their chances. Perez banged in three goals from defence during the South American Youth Championship earlier this year. The 19-year-old regularly turns out for Nacional’s first team and has been on the radar of senior coach Sergio Markarian lately. Gonzalez struck four times on Paraguay’s way to a runners-up medal at that tournament. The Benfica striker made his debut for his hometown club at just 16-years-old and is ever-improving. With the absence of Brazil and Argentina from this tournament, Paraguay will aim to cement themselves as the pride of South America.
A certain 19-year-old Seydou Keita inspired Mali to their best ever finish in this competition when he propelled his side to third place in 1999 but since Mali have failed to emulate any sort of world-beating form. Their present side doesn’t look capable of doing much in this tournament either. They qualified through their fourth-place finish in the African Youth Championship, in which they were beaten by Ghana in the semi-finals and Nigeria in the play off. It seems as if coach Moussa Keita doesn’t expect too much though, he told FIFA.com on the back of Mali’s fourth place finish in the African tournament: “I am satisfied with the results and the work my team has got from this tournament. For a first experience with an U-20 side to qualify for the semi-finals and the World Cup is something fabulous. We look forward to building on the positives.” Look out for Abdoulaye Keita and Boubacar Diarra as their main players.