The FIFA U20 World Cup kicked off to a frantic start on the 23rd of May with Senegalese young stars Amadou Sagna scoring a hat-trick with the first of it becoming the fastest goal ever scored in the history of the FIFA U20 World Cup with just less than ten seconds on the clock beating Nigeria’s Monday Odiaka‘s record of 14 seconds in 1985.
Other games were played with Italy thrashing Mexico in a 2-1 contest in the other Group B match, Ivan Angulo 23 min strike and Luis Sandoval late goal ensure Colombia 2-0 over Poland. Sassuolo’s midfielder, Davide Frattesi scored a fantastic opener for Italy and the 19 – year old’s spot on the team was confirmed as a result of Roma’s Nicholo Zaniolo’s absence from the team.
Often times, arguments arise as to the approach to underage tournaments, whether established players who are still under the eligible age should be taken to the tournament to boost teams’ chances of winning or preserve such spots for lesser-known players to showcase their talents to the world.
As the World focuses on Poland in the next couple of days to catch a glimpse of unknown players who could become superstars in the next couple of years, here are some top U20 players who are not at the World Cup, but are already playing at the top level of professional football and thus absent from the competition.
Country – Italy
DOB – 29 February 1999 (20years)
Club – Ac Milan
Generally and popularly acclaimed to be Gianluigi Buffon‘s successor, Donnarumma who rightly sees the Italian legend as a role model broke into the limelight in 2015 becoming the youngest ever goalkeeper to debut in a Serie A match at the age of 16 years and 242 days breaking the record formerly held by Buffon.
Since then he has gone on to break several other records becoming the youngest goalkeeper to debut for the Italian national team at the age of 17. He has made over 165 appearances with over 50 clean sheets and had been linked with a big money move to Real Madrid in the past.
However, as the Azzurri’s stepped on to the pitch in Poland to face Mexico in their opener, Donnarumma was not listed for the tournament and it was a fellow Milan goalkeeper and his understudy, Plizzari Alessandro who manned the post. Juventus youth goalkeeper Loria Leonardo and Atalanta’s Marco Carnesechi are the alternative choices.
Country – USA
DOB – 18 September 1998 (20years)
Club – Chelsea
What more can be said about Pulisic’s absence from the U20 World Cup? The former Dortmund player who recently moved to Chelsea would have been deemed too experienced for this tournament.
Wondering how and why? Not only has the brilliant midfielder had over 23 caps for the US National team but he was also seen as a core part of the country’s failed attempt to qualify for the 2018 FIFA world cup in Russia as well as becoming the captain of the Stars and Stripes at the young age of 19.
However, rising star and PSG forward, Timothy Weah is listed for the tournament even though he made his international debut in a friendly in 2018 but Pulisic will likely be at the CONCACAF GOLD CUP holding in the summer instead.
Country – Nigeria
DOB – 22 May 1999 (19)
Club – Villarreal
Nigeria’s teenage sensation and rave of the moment, Chukwueze is already a U17 World Cup winner after featuring at the Chile 2015 edition. However, Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2017 U20 world cup in South Korea see him fail to feature at the cadet competition.
Although the Villareal man was eligible for the ongoing tournament, his stock has risen tremendously in the last 12 months posting impressive display in the La Liga and in the Europa league since breaking into the yellow submarines’ first team and sas such may have grown beyond this level.
His displays didn’t go unnoticed by the handlers of the National team, as debates were raised as to whether he should feature for the Super Eagles at the AFCON in Egypt or the Flying Eagles in Poland.
However, despite the possibility of featuring at both tournaments, his club’s stance on picking just one of either, saw the winger settle to play with the big men. He could have been sincerely too much to handle for USA, Ukraine and Qatar.
Country – Norway
DOB – 28 December 1998 (20)
Club – Real Madrid
Well, many would probably be reawakened by the name of the young lad on this list, the Norwegian was signed by Real Madrid as a 16 – year old and he was touted to be next big thing.
This was not far fetched after becoming the youngest debutant in the Norwegian league in 2014 as a 15-year old as well as a National team player in the same year. That shows how long Odegaard has been on the big scene.
However, he has been largely inefficient and could arguably be considered as a flop having only played for Real Madrid’s first team just once in four years. He has largely played for the Castilla and as well gone on loan to the Dutch Eredivisie, playing for Heerenveen in 2017/2018 and Vitesse in the 2018/2019 season.
Although many could consider the U20 World Cup a chance for him to finally regain the form he once showed as a 15-year old, he has however been snubbed in order to give other players a chance at the spotlight. Doubt anyone would have noticed a Real Madrid player will be at the tournament if he had been chosen
Country – Italy
DOB – July 2, 1999 (19)
Club – Roma
Imagine how much impact Nicolo Zaniolo orchestrating things from the midfield and Donnarumma in goal would have made for the Italians at the tournament.
The inclusion of the duo would have made Italians instant favourites to lift the trophy in June. However, having played as an integral part of Roma’s disappointing season both in the Seria A and La Liga, being one of their few impressive players, he wasn’t considered to still be a player in this level of competition.
Zaniolo scored 4 goals in 23 appearances from his midfield position and has become one of the young stars to look forward to in the next season. He has already made two appearances for the Azurris.
Country – Italy
DOB – 28 February 2000 (19)
Club – Juventus
Add the extremely prolific Juventus forward, Moise Keane to the initial scenario of an Italian u20 team that has Donnarumma and Zaniolo and you will likely be looking at a team that could more or less be seen as Italy’s National team “B” playing at the FIFA U20 World Cup
Keane broke into the Seria A this season although he joined Juventus in 2016, making 15 appearances scoring 7 goals, with the National team, he’s made three appearances scoring twice
He became the first player born in the year 2000 to make an appearance in one of Europe’s five major leagues in November 2016), also to make an appearance in the UEFA Champions League(November 2016), to score a goal in one of Europe’s five major leagues (May 2017), and to score a goal for the Italy national team (March 2019). The teenager is already in the league of men
Country – Brazil
DOB – 12 July 2000 (18)
Club – Real Madrid
Unlike the first Madrid player on the list, Vinicius Junior’s appearance at the tournament would have turned some attention to the tournament had Brazil qualified.
But the South Americans failed to qualify and as such, it is difficult to project if Madrid would have allowed him or barred him from featuring due to his importance to the team making 15 appearances in just his first season in Europe.
Irrespective, considering his performances in the La Liga and UEFA Champions League this season he would have become a big star amongst his age mates in Poland. Also, his price tag is quite uncommon for a teenager after the Spanish capital club paid £45 millions to Flamingo to sign. There’s hardly an U20 player featuring in Poland who can boast of such a price tag
Country – France
DOB – 20 December 1998 (20)
Club – PSG
Mbappe is already at a level close to the best of the game just at the age of 20, a lot of footballing fans are already tipping him to win the Balon D’or or the FIFA Best Award in the nearest future, replicating the feats of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It’s even more outstanding that the 20-year old has already scored 100 career goals, winning the FIFA World Cup in Russia 2018 not just as a squad player but as an important player in the team, becoming the joint second top scorer in the competition as well as the second teenager after Pele to score in a FIFA World Cup final match.
As outlined above, his profile just as a World Cup medalist has put him heads and shoulder above other players present at the Championship (No disrespect to the rest present). A World Cup winner vying for a U20 world cup doesn’t sound logical especially after a long tedious season with PSG winning the Ligue 1 and in contention for a domestic double.