The last U-20 World Cup took place in Poland in 2019, and was won by Ukraine. Many of players who caught the eye at that tournament have already begun to make their mark at senior level, including adidas Golden Boot winner Erling Haaland, who topped the scoring charts with nine goals. Argentina's Julián Álvarez, (now of Manchester City), who won the senior World Cup with his country in 2022, also scored in that tournament, as did Uruguay star Darwin Núñez (Liverpool). Lionel Messi (2005), Ángel Di Maria (2007), Mohammed Salah (2011), Antoine Griezmann (2011), Harry Kane (2013) and Paul Pogba (2013) are just a few of the other big names to have shone at previous U-20 World Cups.
The scene is set for the next generation to announce themselves on the world stage.
Also on the ground in Argentina are the members of FIFA’s Technical Study Group, who will observe every match live to identify the technical, tactical and physical trends that emerge over the course of the competition. Before setting off for Argentina, they sat down with FIFA to give their thoughts on the tournament.
Jermaine Jones grew up in Germany and spent the formative years of his career in Eintracht Frankfurt's academy. He played for Germany at U-17 level and in the U-20 World Cup in Argentina in 2001, before turning professional at Frankfurt. He also had spells with Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04, Blackburn Rovers and Beşiktaş. In 2010, he switched his international allegiance to the United States, and he went on to play for the senior national team for eight years, including at the 2014 World Cup. He followed his playing career by progressing into coaching, and is currently working with the USA U-19 men’s national team. He holds a UEFA Pro Licence.
Having played in this tournament, Jones understands how important these competitions are to a player’s development:
“The U-20 World Cup is sometimes the first time a player gets to represent their country in a major tournament. It was for me and I remember the excitement and how much it developed me. You are playing against great players from great countries and against different styles play, and it’s a great opportunity to test yourself against the best.”
“As a host nation, [Argentina] is a home of football and there will be great energy, passion and full stadiums for the matches. There are many great teams competing and I am excited to see the players, and some of the players that can become future stars of our game.”
Julio González played for Paraguay at the 2001 U-20 World Cup in Argentina. His team reached the semi-final, where they lost to an Argentina side that went on to win the tournament on home soil. Having played in the Copa Libertadores at 18 years of age, González moved to Italy to play for Vicenza in Serie B, before a loan move to Argentina where he played for Huracán in Buenos Aires. Upon returning to Italy, he rose to become the top scorer for his club, before a car crash in December 2005 changed his life.
Despite losing his left arm in that accident, González returned to Paraguay and played professional football again for Tacuary. He retired as a player in 2008 and went on to become a professional football coach.
“This tournament presents an excellent opportunity for these young players to showcase what they can do and how they can play for their teams. Physically, technically, tactically they are among the best players in the world, and this is the best stage for them to play on.
“When I played in this tournament back in 2001, I was spotted by a team in Italy. At 18 years of age, I signed for Vicenza and had the chance to play in Europe and progress my career in an incredible way. This tournament can change the future of many [of the] players [who] will play in it, and we have seen many of the world’s best players make an impact at this level and then progress to amazing careers in football. I am looking forward to it all.”
Pape Thiaw played in his native Senegal until the age of 16 before moving to AS Saint-Etienne's academy in France, where he stayed for almost four years. He then enjoyed almost five years in Switzerland as a professional player with Lausanne Sport before returning to France with Strasbourg and FC Metz. He went on to spend five years in Spain's La Liga before once again returning to France with Créteil.
Following his playing career, he settled back in Senegal and is currently working through his coaching qualifications. He has already earned a UEFA A Licence and is looking forward to attending the matches at FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023. As he explained:
“This is a special tournament for all involved, players and coaches. U-20 players need competition and competitiveness, which allows them to make an important personal development. When they travel to tournaments like this, they discover and engage with different cultures. There’s a socio-educational development thanks to their shared experience together during the competition. There’s also their mental development and the demands of high-level football."
Born and raised in Bermuda, Shaun Goater started his playing days at his much-respected local club North Village, which has a strong track record of developing talented players. After securing a big transfer to Manchester United in 1988, Goater moved to Rotherham United the following year in search of first-team football. A successful spell at Bristol City followed, which brought him to the attention of Manchester City. He went on to spend five years in the blue half of Manchester, and was top goal-scorer at the club in four of them. Following successful spells at Reading FC and Southend United, he established a semi-professional football club in his native Bermuda to help young talent break through into the professional game, and he is currently working as an assistant coach with Manchester City’s women’s team.
“My time at Manchester United was a great challenge for me, even though I did not break into the first team", he said. "Moving to Rotherham United really helped to keep me grounded and I had to work really hard there. That work and time really helped me when I moved to Bristol City and on to Manchester City. As a young player, there is no straight path in football, and it takes a lot of hard work and the ability to navigate setbacks.”
“For players at this age, the U-20 World Cup gives them great exposure to playing under pressure and that experience stands to them hugely in preparing for progressing to senior men’s team level. Winning games at this level is very difficult so there are great learnings for players in defeat, but in also in understanding what it takes to get over line. This tournament is huge for their development.”
FIFA's team of goalkeeping analysts is led by Pascal Zuberbühler, FIFA’s Senior Football and Goalkeeping expert. “Zubi” has been part of the Technical Study Groups at every FIFA tournament in the men’s and women’s game for a number of years now, and brings a great wealth of knowledge and experience to the team.
Zuberbühler is a former Switzerland national team goalkeeper who played for seven years at Grasshopper Club Zürich and another seven at FC Basel before leaving his homeland to join Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. He also went on to play for West Bromwich Albion and Fulham in England.
“I am always interested to see the goalkeepers and how they are playing with their teams. The connection with the defensive line, both in and out of possession, is crucial and this is something I am looking forward to observe. There are many great teams in this competition and many great goalkeepers, so I want to see their positioning, communication, decision-making and bravery.”
“At the last tournament in Poland [in 2019], Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Lunin won the Golden Glove, and he now is the second-[choice] goalkeeper at Real Madrid and works with Thibaut Courtois every day. The performances of goalkeepers in this tournament can be very significant for their development."
FIFA Technical Team for U-20 World Cup
Arsène Wenger – Chief of Global Football Development
Steven Martens – Director of Global Football Development
Jermaine Jones – Technical Expert
Julio González – Technical Expert
Pape Thiaw – Technical Expert
Shaun Goater – Technical Expert
Pascal Zuberbühler – Senior Football and Goalkeeping Expert
Performance Analysts / Data Science
Harry Lowe – Team Lead Performance Analysis & Insights
Elliott Stonell – Football Performance Analyst
Juan Pablo Busso – Senior Football Data Scientist
Arne Barez – Football Content Manager
Lisa Fallon – Football Content Tournament Lead
The FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off on Saturday 20 May with the opening matches in Groups A and B, including host nation Argentina’s opening match against Uzbekistan.
The FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off on Saturday, May 20th with Groups A and B commencing, including host nation Argentina’s opening match against Uzbekistan.