Unfortunately there’s not much hope for Iraq here but the other teams will have a three-way battle. Chile showed their quality at the South American Youth Championship while Egypt trounced the competition at their African equivalent. England have a whole nation watching as they hope to avoid adding to the under 17s and under 21s misery.
Chile looked absolutely red hot at the start of their qualifying campaign in the South American Youth Championship. They qualified with four wins out of four against Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay. Their form dropped in the final phase of the competition but they managed to secure qualification thanks to being the only team to beat eventual champions Colombia – they beat them once in each phase. Nicolas Castillo starred heavily for them throughout that tournament and was even prospering when they weren’t winning, exemplified by his stunning free kick against Paraguay in their first game of the hexagonal final. His club Universidad Catolica will be lucky to hold on to him if he is to impress on the world stage, although he has stated he wants to achieve great things there before making a move across the atlantic.
Watch Nicolas Castillo’s stunning free kick vs Paraguay below.
Egypt qualified for this tournament as winners of their continental competition so shouldn’t be taken lightly. On paper, England haven’t drawn a bad group but the reality is far from that. Egypt have progressed to the knockout stage of this tournament in the past two editions and have only failed to qualify once in the past decade (2007). Coach Rabie Yassin will be relying on his trademark strong defence to provide a foundation for the more creative players such as Saleh Gomaa, who has represented Egypt’s senior side 9 times and has been reportedly chased by Manchester United, Anderlecht and Borrussia Dortmund. Egypt are not a side to be taken lightly and will be willing to go one better than their previous two attempts.
England’s exit in the European Under 19 Championship in the semi-finals against Greece was disappointing but the bare fact they made it to the semi-finals saw a sigh of relief from many fans saddened by England’s performances in recent competitions. This is the last thread of hope England have this summer after failing to reach the European Under 17 Championship and failing miserably in the under 21 equivalent. Peter Taylor has named a relatively strong squad for this tournament though, with Ross Barkley, Eric Dier, James Ward-Prowse and Harry Kane the most recognizable names. Dier is the only foreign-based recruit in Taylor’s squad, playing his trade with Sporting Lisbon, but has had former spells with Everton where he played alongside England teammate John Lundstram, John Stones and Chris Long.
Iraq’s first tournament since 2001 hopes to bring the same success they had in 1989, when Saudi Arabia hosted the bi-annual showpiece. On that occasion they reached the quarter finals with three group stage wins. This year offers little hope on paper but Hakim Shakir will look to take confidence from their appearance in the Asian Under 19 Championship campaign, where they finished eventual runners up, although that came as a shock to most. Their most dangerous threats will be Humam Tariq, who has 11 senior caps to his name at only 17-years-old and captain Mohammed Hammed. Burhan Jumaah appears in the tournament at only 16-years-old. It is a very young squad that which could be very exciting if they are to perform.