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FIFA U-20 World Cup favorites and dark horses

2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup analysis: favorites and dark horses revealed

April 27, 2019 By Ali M.
The tournament is set to kick off in less than a month, but who stands the greatest chance of lifting the title?

The May 23 kick-off for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup is fast approaching. In less than a month's time, many of the world's brightest youngsters will take center stage to battle it out for the title.

A total of 24 teams, split into six groups, are vying for this coveted trophy. However, there can be only one champion come the final on June 15.

Who are the likeliest to list this crown? Who are the surprise packages that just might shock everyone en route to the title? Here are our picks.

Favorite: Portugal

Why: It's simple: they are the U-19 European champion. A  successful campaign in 2018 not only saw Hélio Sousa's side earn qualification to the U-20 World Cup, but it also saw them lift the title ahead of their continental rivals. 

They swept aside Ukraine courtesy of a 5-0 victory before beating Italy in the final. Furthermore, the joint-top scorers of that competition were Francisco Trincão and João Filipe, both of which are Portuguese internationals, scoring five goals each. This nation hasn't won the FIFA U-20 World Cup since 1991, but this squad will have the entire country hopeful of ending their 28-year wait for title number three.

Portugal, 2018 European U-19 Championship

Dark horse: Ecuador

Why: Normally, Ecuador would not have been in this conversation. However, after their amazing 2019 South American U-20 Championship which saw them finish ahead of Argentina and Uruguay twice and win the title, many eagerly await to see if La Tricolor will make a name for themselves at Poland 2019.

With Leonardo Campana leading their attack, they should be confident. However, they do not have a history of winning titles on the international stage and that inexperience could work against them. Never have they won the FIFA U-20 World Cup and that 2019 success was only the first time they were crowned champion of South America. 

Favorite: Italy

Why: Remember 2018 European U-19 Championship that Portugal won? Italy was in the same group with the eventual champion yet still came in first spot. Gli Azzurrini would make it all the way to the final and despite losing the ultimate game, the fact that they came back from 2-0 down to force extra time shows their resilience and capability. Moise Kean is unlikely to make the squad given the tournament's kick-off date and the summer UEFA European U-21 Championship, but there is enough quality nonetheless.

Dark horse: Mexico

Why: Mexico has never won this competition and the last time they even made it to the final was in the inaugural FIFA U-20 World Cup back in 1977. However, their current crop of youngsters has fans optimistic over the future of El Tri.

José Juan Macías and Diego Lainez are two talents to go to for inspiration; however, a few things could work against them. Firstly, their shortcomings in this competition could come back to haunt them. Furthermore, the inexperience of their manager Diego Ramírez could cause cracks in their plans.

Lainez is one of many youngsters expected to lit up Poland 2019

Diego Lainez, Mexico National Team, FIFA U-20 World Cup

Favorite: Argentina

Why: For obvious reasons. Argentina is the most successful FIFA U-20 World Cup side, winning six times and triumphing in all but one of the finals they have appeared in. La Albiceleste finished behind Ecuador in the 2019 South American U-20 Championship but their experience could carry them all the way. They will have to contest with Portugal in Group F but that should be a fitting test for their title credentials.

Dark horse: USA

Why: They have their 2018 CONCACAF U-20 Championship to boost their confidence. However, the USA has never made the FIFA U-20 World Cup final let alone win the trophy. Regardless, there is enough talent in their squad to go very far. Whether they can go all the way is debatable.

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