Despite all of the bad press surrounding FIFA in the last few weeks, there are still several international tournaments to be played this summer, and it’s a welcome relief to turn our attention back to the matters on the pitch. One of those tournaments is the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, which has just got underway in New Zealand. The England Under-20 side failed to qualify for the tournament, despite using the likes of Harry Kane and Ross Barkley in their qualifying games. However, there will still be a huge array of young talent on display, from the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Germany, and this tournament is well known for showcasing some of the stars of the future – Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero both announced their arrival to the world on this stage.
The tournament follows the usual format, with six groups of four playing each other once. The top two from each group plus the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the Round of 16, from which point the tournament becomes a knockout competition.
A handful of the first group games have been played. The highlights so far have seen Brazil run out winners of a 4-2 thriller with Nigeria, while Germany inflicted an 8-1 defeat on Fiji on what was their debut in this competition. The six groups are as follows:
Group A – New Zealand, Myanmer, Ukraine, USA
Group B – Argentina, Austria, Panama, Ghana
Group C – Colombia, Portugal, Senegal, Qatar
Group D – Mali, Mexico, Uruguay, Serbia
Group E – Brazil, Hungary, Nigeria, North Korea
Group F – Fiji, Germany, Honduras, Uzbekistan
The Top Contenders
Argentina – +450 with Bet365
Germany and Argentina are vying for favouritism with most bookies, and both look particularly strong going into the tournament. Argentina opened their group campaign with an unsatisfying 2-2 draw with Panama, despite dominating the match. They were inspired by young Atletico Madrid forward, Angel Correa, who scored both Argentina’s goals in the game. He was widely tipped to be one of the stars of this tournament, and his diminutive stature has already drawn comparisons with compatriot, Sergio Aguero. The result, if not the performance was somewhat disappointing, but the South Americans should have too much quality for Ghana and Austria, and it would be a big surprise if the failed to reach the business end of the tournament. They topped the South American U20 Championship final group, ahead of Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil, and are deserving of a place at the head of the market.
Germany – +500 with Betvictor
Germany play with much of the same side who won the UEFA Under-19 European Championships last summer, and they will look to continue their progress here. They were dealt a blow when striker, Tim Kleindienst, was ruled out through injury, and they’ve also lost their last two friendly games to Poland and Italy. However, the Germans are a different kettle of fish in competitive tournaments, and they have an abundance of young talent, such as Bayer Leverkusen attacker Julian Brandt. They will be a danger to all.
Brazil – +550 with Coral
Brazil will always have talented individuals, but they represent little value in this market as a team to win the competition. They finished fourth in the South American Championship, behind Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay, and have also recently lost games to Honduras, Colombia and Argentina.
By comparison, Colombia offer a better bet at the price. They earned a 1-0 win over Qatar in their first group game, which wasn’t overly convincing, but the way looks clear for Colombia and Portugal to qualify from the group ahead of Qatar and Senegal.
Portugal – +1000 with Bet365
Portugal won 3-0 against Senegal in a strange match which saw them open the scoring after just 26 seconds. A relatively even game followed, and Portugal had to wait until the 90th and 92nd minutes to make the match safe. The Portuguese have posted some good results in recent friendlies, but it remains to be seen if they have the quality to go all the way here.
The Dark Horses
Nigeria – +1600 with Bet365
Uruguay – +2000 with Bet365
Serbia – +3300 with Betvictor
USA – +3500 with Bwin
Some of the outsiders listed above will fancy their chances of making an impact on the tournament, and it’s not unusual for a lesser-fancied nation to do well in the Under-20 competition. The likes of Iraq, Ghana, Austria, Costa Rica, Hungary and Mexico have all made it as far as the semi-finals in the last four tournaments, so there can be some good value in selecting an outsider alongside a main bet.
Nigeria showed their capability by putting two past Brazil in an entertaining game where they were far from disgraced. They’ve been imperious in African competition over the last 12 months, and will be a match for anyone. That opening result shouldn’t necessarily halt their progress though, and they have every chance of getting out of the group.
USA improve year on year, and this is one of the best crops of young players they’ve produced, but they still fall some way short of the top level. Serbia have one of the potential talents of the tournament in Andrija Zivkovic, who plays for Partizan Belgrade and has already appeared in the Champions League and Europa League.
The side that stands out though is Uruguay. They were in the final of the last tournament (going down on a penalty shoot-out to France), they were third in the South American final group in qualifying, finishing ahead of Brazil, and they can call on some excellent young talent. Diego Poyet, son of Uruguay legend Gus Poyet, has declared his loyalty to Uruguay internationally, and he will provide a calming presence in midfield, having already made his Premiership debut for West Ham this season. They started the tournament with a 1-0 win over Serbia – their biggest rivals in Group D – and they can go on to finish top of the group, thus avoiding the big guns in the next round. They should make the quarter-finals at least, and stand out at a very big price.
To win the FIFA under-20 World Cup
Argentina – +450 with Bet365
Each Way – Uruguay – +2000 with Bet365
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