On Sunday the group stage of the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina ended and this afternoon the knockout stages begin with two games. Javier Mascherano's teamwill have their first knockout match against tough Nigeria from Wednesday and could face England if both reach the semifinals. The classic with Brazil, which comes from the other side of the key, would only arrive in a hypothetical final. As a historical fact, five of the 16 teams that drew the group stage are South American, a fact that happens for the first time since the celebration of the youth competition.
In addition, several revelations struck the blow in their respective groups: Uzbekistan took second place in the group from Argentina, and so did Israel, which left out Japan and Senegal. On the African side, Gambia also surprised and was first in Group F by marginalizing a possible candidate like France, who did not get a place as one of the best four third by goal difference.
The crossings were established as follows:
United States vs New Zealand - Tuesday, May 30 at 14:30 at Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza
As an opening of the direct elimination duels, the Americans, who accumulated a perfect score by beating Ecuador, Slovakia and Fiji, will face the Oceanians, who shared a group with Argentina and passed as one of the best third with 4 units.
The United States is one of the constant teams that participate in the Youth World Cup, is the current Concacaf champion and has in its roster one of the greatest promises of the MLS: Jack McGlynn, a 19-year-old boy who already has 50 games as a professional and is a figure in the Philadelphia Union, champion of the Eastern Conference. Another player to highlight is Cade Cowell, the center forward of San José Earthquakes who, despite not having outstanding performances in his league, is the scorer of his National Team in this World Cup with two goals.
Cade Cowell, the North American scorer in this World Cup. Photo: Andres Larrovere / AFP.
Uzbekistan vs Israel - Tuesday, May 30 at 18 in the Malvinas Argentinas de Mendoza
The two revelations of the competition measure each other in search of a qualification to the quarterfinals, each getting a second position in their respective groups. Uzbekistan had already reached this stage twice in its history, while for Israel it is its first time in a youth World Cup.
It is worth remembering that Indonesia, former host of the World Cup, asked that Israel not participate because of the conflicts between the two countries and that was the reason that led FIFA to move the tournament in our country.
Colombia vs Slovakia - Wednesday, May 31 at 14:30 at the San Juan del Bicentenario
It will be played as an appetizer of the match between Argentina and Nigeria. There, the coffee selection (ranked first with 7 points) will be the advance of the South Americans in these eighth-finals against others of the best third (three units) of the competition.
The interesting player for this duel is on the South American side. This is Oscar Cortés, midfielder with creative capacity, assistant and especially scorer who belongs to Millonarios de Colombia. He contributed two goals in the group stage and already seems to have a European destiny assured. The Lens of France, qualified for the next Champions League, set their eyes on him and would be close to confirming the player's departure to the Old Continent for the next season.
Argentina vs. Nigeria - Wednesday, May 31 at 18 p.m. in the San Juan del Bicentenario
The national team, the second team with perfect scoring next to the United States, will have a complicated stop against Nigeria. The Africans qualified as the best third of the entire World Cup, with 6 goals, but integrating the "Group of death" with Brazil and Italy, who won 2-0.
With Luka Romero, Valentín Carboni and Alejo Véliz to name some of the outstanding players to which we can add the figures of Federico Redondo and Brian Aguirre who have also been having a prominent role. However, the opponent in front turns out to be one of the best performing African teams in the history of the U20 World Cup, highlighting the speed and agility of each of its players.
As is customary in a nation like Nigeria, the problems of the past with doubts about the age of its players reappear in the run-up to the match.
The only precedent between both nations in this competition was for the 2005 final, which was a victory for the Albiceleste by 2-1 thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi.
Luka Romero, one of Mascherano's figures in this Under-20 World Cup. Photo: EFE/ Juan Ignacio Roncoroni
Brazil vs Tunisia - Wednesday, May 31 at 14:30 at the Diego Armando Maradona in La Plata
The Carioca team came out ahead of its difficult group thanks to the wide goal difference it achieved in its 6-0 victory against the Dominican Republic. They will be looking to advance to the quarterfinals against a weak Tunisia who clinched their place by finishing third after only beating Iraq and losing to England and Uruguay.
Brazil, as usual, has a lot of jewels that promise a European future. The most prominent of these is their captain Andrey Santos, an 18-year-old back-and-forth midfielder who was instrumental in the campaign that returned Vasco da Gama to Brasileirao. With that performance, and after having scored 6 goals in the South American of Colombia 2023, he quickly caught the attention of Chelsea of England, a club with which he has already signed although he is waiting for the solution of problems with his visa to be able to make his debut in the Premier League.
England vs. Italy - Wednesday, May 31 at 18 p.m. at the Diego Armando Maradona in La Plata
Possibly the most attractive duel of the knockout stages due to what both countries meant at the football level and the European classic that will take place in South American lands. The English are unbeaten after winning against Uruguay and Tunisia and drawing with Iraq. Those from the south of the Old Continent failed to overcome Brazil on goal difference and stayed with the second position in their group despite having Cesare Casadei, the scorer of the tournament with 4 goals. He plays as a hooker in the English promotion Reading on loan from Chelsea.
On the side of England, there is one of the defenders who provided greater security so far in the World Cup: Jarell Quanash, center who wears the Liverpool shirt, who was already champion with his country of the European Under-19 Championship and stands out for his elegance, good pass and aerial game.
Some of these teams may result in a hypothetical rival of Argentina in the semifinals.
Cesare Casadei, momentary scorer of the youth tournament. Photo: EFE/ Marcelo Ruiz
Gambia vs Uruguay - Thursday 1 June at 14.30 at the Madre de Ciudades in Santiago del Estero
A possible candidate to go far against the biggest revelation of this World Cup. The Charrúas were second in the group and obtained one of the best performances in their history in the South American of Colombia 2023. On the other hand, the Africans, with 7 points, stayed with the first position of the group that shared with France and were even the African team with the best performance so far.
Although Uruguay does not have the Real Madrid striker, Álvaro Rodríguez, they have in their ranks Franco González as a figure, his number "10" that resembles that kind of hooks in danger of extinction. He moves all over the attacking front between the line of midfielders and opposing defenders, he already has two goals in this World Cup and is still taking his first steps in his country's football with the Danube.
On the other hand, Gambia showed that it should not be underestimated regardless of the fact that it is in its second participation of a U-20 World Cup. Despite having players of a regular role in all their lines, their 18-year-old striker Adama Bojang turns out to be the most outstanding of all. With his two contributions of goal in the group stage and four goals in the Qualifiers for that competition, several European clubs such as Ajax, Nottingham Forest and Tottenham already have him in the folder.
Ecuador vs South Korea - Thursday, June 1 at 18 p.m. at the Madre de Ciudades stadium in Santiago del Estero
The last match of these knockout stages will decide who could be Argentina's opponent in case they overcome Nigeria. Ecuador qualified with 6 points behind the United States, while the Asians surprised, obtained 5 units and stayed with the second place ahead of France.
After achieving a third place in the 2019 World Youth Championship, the Tricolor has the scorer Justin Cuero as its maximum hope in the search for the title: an 18-year-old boy from Independiente del Valle who was already fundamental to get the classification during the South American. With a great nose for goalscoring, his speed and good physique allow him to generate his own chances of goal despite the fact that the rest of the team does not accompany him. He scored 3 goals in the group stage.
Justin Cuero, one of the promises of Ecuadorian football. Photo: AP Nicolas Aguilera.