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England could learn lessons from Colombia's Cup

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Tim Vickery | 09:44 UK time, Monday, 2 May 2011

The memories came flooding back last week when the draw was held for the Under-20 World Cup, which kicks off in Colombia at the end of July.

Ten years ago I travelled up there for the Copa America. It was the first time that Colombia had staged a major tournament, and some doubted that they could do it.

The political moment in the country was tense, with guerrilla forces offering a threat. In the build-up to the tournament there were car-bomb attacks in some of the major cities, and then the vice-president of the Colombian FA was kidnapped.

The Copa America was postponed for a few days. Then it was back on again - but without Argentina, who decided a couple of days before the kick-off that they would not be going.

Brazil's midfielder Mauro Silva got closer. He arrived at the airport, checked in his luggage - and then decided he was too scared to go. It was with some trepidation that I flew up from Rio.

I need not have worried. The tournament went off smoothly, and the Colombians proved to be wonderfully warm hosts. They turned out in numbers for all the games, genuinely appreciative that all these teams had decided to visit their country.

One of my strongest memories comes from before the opening games in Barranquilla. Reaching the media entrance entailed walking down a long, open corridor, wired off from the public, who were already gathering outside the stadium.

As I made my way the crowd looked me up and down. Maybe I was from Argentina. I heard the whispers and felt a boo coming. So I turned round, announced my nationality and got a big cheer - not for being English, but for being from anywhere else and giving Colombia a vote of confidence with my presence. It was the beginning of a very happy month.

Those who attend the World Youth Cup this July and August will doubtless carry away plenty of memories of their own from a country that is comprised of so many different and fascinating regions - and in the case of the players, they will also take with them some invaluable experience.

The England youngsters, for example, will be based in the impressive, bustling Medellin, and will also take in a game in the fair city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast. And they will also have the chance of taking on Argentina, world champions at this level in 1995, '97, 2001, '05 and '07.

With that series of wins, Argentina wrote the manual on how to get full value from investing in players at Under-20 level. Resigned to the fact that their best players will be sold abroad, Argentina have used their youth structure to groom their youngsters, give them a crash course in their country's footballing identity and secure them for the long-term future of the senior side.

More important than all the titles won with the Under-20s is the production line of talent, feeding through to the full Argentina team.

Erik Lamela

Argentina are expected to have stylish midfielder Lamela back for the Under-20 World Cup - Photo: Getty

It is true that the quality of Argentina's youngsters seems to have fallen off of late - senior coach Sergio Batista complains that the clubs are grooming runners and battlers rather than artists. Argentina failed to make it to the 2009 World Youth Cup, and they looked very laboured in the qualifying tournament earlier this year.

Come July, though, it is a fair bet that they will be much stronger. Some fine players were not released for the qualifiers, notably River Plate's superbly elegant left-footed midfielder Erik Lamela.

And 17-year-old sensation Juan Manuel Iturbe - known as "the Paraguayan Messi" because he grew up there - is picking up senior experience with Cerro Porteno and coming on fast. Facing this calibre of opponent should be a fantastic learning opportunity for the England Under-20 team.

To my mind, it is regrettable that English football does not attach more importance to this event.

Granted, it is entirely understandable that the national Under-20 team takes on special importance in South America and Africa - continents which are exporters of talent. As we have seen with Argentina (whose model has been copied by Uruguay, and now Brazil) the Under-20 team is the fast track to the senior side.

English football will inevitably look to the ultra-competitive atmosphere of the Premier League to sift out the youngsters who are good enough to represent their country.

Even so, there are two very good reasons for England to send a full strength squad to Colombia.

The first is that, for all its plus points, the Premier League does not teach the specific discipline of tournament football. As well as having its own rhythm and dynamic, tournament competition has another key characteristic - it entails being away from home for a prolonged period of time.

In his book, My England Years, Bobby Charlton argues that the bid to win the 1962 World Cup in Chile was undermined by bouts of homesickness from fringe players. Almost five decades later, there were reports of boredom coming out of the England camp in South Africa.

Spending their entire career in domestic football makes leaves England players running the risk of being unprepared for the challenges of a tournament. Participating in the World Youth Cup can help plug this gap.

And there is also the point that taking these competitions seriously will surely earn England some brownie points within Fifa - and after the 2018 World Cup debacle, that would be no bad thing.

Please leave comments on the piece in the space provided. Send questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I'd like to know what you think of the potential of Porto's Radamel Falcao Garcia, after his four-goal destruction of Villareal in the Europa League. He's already 25, so in theory coming into his peak.

I saw him play for River against Boca in the Apertura 2008, and he was unremarkable, but River were in disarray at that time and Diego Simeone not far from being sacked. Is Falcao good enough to make it if he was summoned to La Liga, Serie A or the Premiership?
James Threasher

A) I think we'll find out before long, because I imagine Porto will want to cash in on him at some point. I've followed him since he played for the Colombian Under-20s (with Hugo Rodallega) in 2005. At River Plate he was undermined by a series of injuries, but even then he looked impressive and aggressive cutting in on the diagonal. Porto seem to have got the best out of him because they've kept him fit, and they play a game where they get the ball forward quickly and give him opportunities to attack it facing the goal.

I'm still not convinced that he can be anything like as effective if asked to play with his back to goal. This has been a problem with Colombia, whose build-up is slower than Porto's - so much will depend, I feel, on how he's handled.

Q) Can you shed any light on the current standings with regard to relegation in Argentina? I think that clubs there collect points from three seasons and the two (three?) clubs with the least accumulated points get relegated after each season. Is there any possibility that one of the big clubs (River Plate, Boca) could get relegated this year?
Florian Keller

A) Argentina stages two separate championships per year. Relegation is calculated on an average of points accumulated over six championships, or three years. At the conclusion of the season (in seven games' time) the two bottom teams go down, while the next two go into play-offs against the sides who finished third and fourth in the second division.

River Plate have been going through anxious times. They are puling away now (having moved up to eighth-from-bottom in the relegation stakes). Meanwhile they are lying second in the current championship, so they are simultaneously fighting relegation and striving to be champions. Boca are safe at the moment, but another bad year could put them in trouble in 12 months' time.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I would be interested to know if you know anything about Rodrigo Alborno or Andreas Ona, both of whom my club have/are about to sign. Also Gabriel Pires, and his brother, who Juventus have just signed?

  • Comment number 2.

    Tim,

    What chance Uruguay in this Tournament?

    You have mentioned on occasions about how they place great importance on youth and the transition to the senior squad previously.

    Who are the Uruguayans expected to make an impact?

  • Comment number 3.

    I also meant to ask Tim if this tournament could eventually lead to an application to host the World Cup in 2030? Depending on how well it does etc etc.

    I remember the 1986 Tournament being taken away from Colombia and given to Mexico for reasons of money,safety and the perceived inability to be able to host 24 teams (as was).

  • Comment number 4.

    BennyBlanco agrees with this.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Tim. Great blog.

    I think one of the major stumbling blocks for England u20/u21s is getting their best players released from their clubs. There is currently an argument over Jack Wilshere's involvement bubbling away at the moment. Are there any instances of such club Vs country battles occuring in South America?

  • Comment number 6.

    Another interesting article, Tim. Always good to read.

    To my mind, the most important point raised here is one that you only touched on for a moment: why is it that English footballers, apparently alone in the world, seem to insist on spending their entire careers in England? Beckham, Owen, Woodgate and Pennant are the only current Englishmen I can think of to have played abroad for any length of time, and none of them are in the national squad these days. The game in other countries is so different in style, approach and content that you can't help but feel English players are really missing out on something by spending their lives so close to home.

  • Comment number 7.

    Without going into why the English FA, National team etc should take this tournament seriously (which like you I believe they should), if I were an English under-20 player I would be banging on the FA's and my club managers door as hard as possible to go and playing my best to get an inclusion. The opportunity to go to Colombia for a few weeks, play against styles of play and players they never come across and the chance to play tournament football is far to good to turn down. It's the oppurtunity of a lifetime especially for most of the squad who won't progress to the senior team and play at a World Cup. Not to mention the invaluable experience this provides to those that do. If I were a footballer times like these would be the highlights of my career not playing against Bolton or Stoke in the Premier League. But then again current pro footballers aren't like me are they? Money talks i'm afraid.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Tim, thanks for an interesting article.

    Not knowing that much about the intricacies of South American football, all I can comment on here is the 'seriousness' with which England treat youth international football.

    The U-20 world Cup may not be focussed on to a great extent (perhaps as 'talent' in South America and Europe are different things, that come with different levels of age or experience), as let me assure you that every U-21 European Championship England are involved in (especially given their relative recent success in these tournaments - finals and semi-finals in the last two) is treated with a great respect, and the fact that there is a possible club v country issue about to emerge with the likes of Wilshere/Carroll wanting to play show the importance which we attach to this. The tournament atmosphere and preparation are certainly beneficial, and as it's every 2 years, every generation of U21 footballers gets to compete (in qualifying at least), however the old thorny issue of 'burn-out' should also be considered.

  • Comment number 9.

    England should send one of Arsenal's youth division teams, if a couple of the kids happen to be French, it's all good, just look at Argentina, two of those kids (Irtube & Hoyos) were either born or raised abroad --- so why not recruit a full Arsenal Youth XI ???

  • Comment number 10.

    Tim,
    Great to see your positive comments about Medellin where England´s first two group games will be played. I'm an expat who has lived in Medellin for many years .We have a small English community here and we are really excited about welcoming anybody who comes to visit. Don't be put off by the negative publicity, I guarantee anybody making the trip to support English will have a fantastic time here.

  • Comment number 11.

    10 - I've been back to Colombia a few times since 2001 - the South American Under-20s in 2005 were a highluight, because that's where a certain Lionel Messi started his rise to the top.
    I was last in Medellin 3 years ago, and was struck by the progress the city had made - it has influenced some of the developments made here in Rio.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tim,
    Very enjoyable article as always, but as Uruguayan I may mention that we have not copied Argentina’s model of fast track from youth to senior teams. We developed it. We had been doing it for a long time before them. Let me remind you and your readers that among other titles we were World and Olympic champions twice before them, and we were sub 20 America champions in 1954, 1958, 1964, 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1981,Cannes 1979 youth cup, Pan American champion in 1983.
    Best regards
    Roberto Cruz

  • Comment number 13.

    12 - all the triumphs that you mention preceded the opening up of the global market of footballers - Pekerman's model in Argentina was specifically designed to deal with this new reality, and it has had a strong influence on what Tabarez has done with Uruguay since 2006 - since when Uruguay have always qualified for the world youth tournaments. - they didn't make the World Youth Cups of 2001, 2003 or 2005, despite hosting the qualifiers in 2003.

  • Comment number 14.

    2 - Uruguay came second in qualifiers, but I didn't think their team was as good as the 2007 and 2009 sides.
    Stand outs are Diego Polenta, a strong left sided defender (often played midfield in qualification, but I think his real position is further back) and clever little support striker Adrian Luna.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am another Englishman living in Medellin (like MartinBucks) and I can also confidently say that this is a safe, beautiful city where the people will be more than welcoming and the tournmament should be fantastic. I highly recommend a summer holiday to this beautiful city and country with the chance to cheer on the young English team as well as the chance to see the new Messis and Chicharitos!

    I had already bought my tickets for every game in Medellin, which is Group G, a round-of-16 game and a semi-final so I was absolutely delighted when the draw took place as it means not only do I get to watch England, but Argentina - with Lamela, Iturbe, etc., as well as Mexico and North Korea.

    Tim - I presume you know little about the Koreans but do you know of any exciting new 'Chicharitos' in the making? Also, are you coming to Colombia for the championship? If not, do you want a reporter on the ground? lol

  • Comment number 16.

    i agree that it will no doubt be a memorable cup in colombia, a country where the people are mad about having a good time and football.
    hopefully colombia can have a good crack at the tournament, they were all over their recent futsal triumph so i can only imagine what they´ll be like if they win this.
    i´d have brazil as slight favourites and barranquilla will suit them nicely, was it chosen specifically for them?
    any england fans who venture to medellin will be sure of a warm welcome, especially when they play argentina but i think it will be a tough tough group.
    one more thing, how painful is it to watch these fifa draws of late, they drag on and on doing the simplest of tasks in the most long winded way.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good point about England and the tournament format Tim, and one that I think often doesn't receive the attention it should. Whatever the dragging of feet, at least England are there, which, along with improved results in recent U17 and 21 competitions, and even the possibility of a GB team at the Olympics, if they eventually pull their finger out, is a move in the right direction. I agree with Scott Jones, #7, it's a sign of the times that young, often unestablished, players aren't banging down the FA's door to represent their country, to share the camaraderie and excitement that you would think a few weeks in such a distant, exotic country would foster. Hate to harp on about it, but here in Japan you don't hear of all excuses under the sun to avoid playing for your country. They are busting a gut, and it's often not for a game just down the road, it can involve flying halfway around the world midweek. Many of the current senior squad that weren't far away from the semi-finals in South Africa last year grew together at the the various age levels, and have competed in several tournaments together. This can only have helped at the WC.

    Cartagena rings a bell, but I can't quite place it.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Tim,

    Another great blog post. I'm living in Colombia at the moment and will be at the England games, are there any jobs available within the BBC for this? I know it's a long shot but I'd love to be part of this tournament as I am a proud Brit with a lot of love for Colombia too.

  • Comment number 19.

    Perhaps one of the reasons why, in international competitions, England underperforms. Most of its players play in the EPL, and, although this means that Gerrard, Lampard and Co. play with and against the best footballers in the world on a weekly basis, when it comes to international cups they cannot cope with all of the external factors.

  • Comment number 20.

    seems that River already sold him for €18 million to a group of investors....what a shame only 20 profesional games he played (barely half season) and already sold no wonder why River is having so many problems at the moment.

    http://www.goal.com/en/news/585/argentina/2011/05/02/2468371/river-plate-sell-erik-lamela-to-investment-group-report

  • Comment number 21.

    oh sorry i was talking about Erik Lamela by the way

  • Comment number 22.

    Everybody take a look at Colo Colo 2-3 Cerro Porteño highlights on ytube. The best five goals you could wish for..... And bare in mind the winning goal came in the 89th minute and was the only way Cerro could stay in the Copa Libertadores.

  • Comment number 23.

  • Comment number 24.

    Above link relates to 22.......

  • Comment number 25.

    Tim sure this isn't your fault but can you urge the BBC to start using the ñ on their English language site. Iturbe plays for my club Cerro Porteño not Porteno. Also the Paraguayan striker recovering from a gunshot to the head is Salvador Cabañas not Cabanas (this was something I complained to the BBC about a year ago but never received a response or saw it edited).

    Great article, I was lucky enough to watch Lamela a couple of weeks in BA he is a top talent and hope he plays (but not too well against England)

  • Comment number 26.

    Yet another Englishman living in Medallo and can't wait for the tournament to start. To the chaps who mentioned doing work at the tournament I know that they are currently hiring translators, guides etc to accompany the squads. I'll try to get my hands on the email address and post it here, but it should be on the official Colombia Sub 20 site as well.

    Which terrace are you both going to go? I'll be in Norte, maybe we can organise a mini English barra brava... lol (I'd invite Tim to join in, but I imagine he'll be sipping his champagne in the press box!)

  • Comment number 27.

    England just doesn't understand how to raise young players.

    The biggest problem for young players in England is there isn't something for 18-21 year olds who are too good for reserve football but not yet good enough for say the Premier League, whilst loans can work out - its not quite the same as playing with the same players.

    Whereas in Spain there "reserves" play in proper leagues (for example Barcelona B being in the 2nd tier of spanish football) gives a much more competitive level of football for those pushing to move into the first team.

    Until England drastically improves the "grooming" of young players, they will never get near a world cup win.

  • Comment number 28.

    Hey Tim!

    I was wondering if you could tell me more about Iturbe. Are people right to call him the Paraguay Messi? Is he that talented? Is he going to Porto or is he there already? Is he moving to Man United after spending a year at Porto?

  • Comment number 29.

    Hate to harp on about it, but here in Japan you don't hear of all excuses under the sun to avoid playing for your country.

    -------------------------------------

    Unless of course you fly off to Argentina when all your domestic fixtures get rescheduled because of the earthquake. The JFA have even said they will pick European based players and then fill the rest of the squad out with kids. The reason of course being, is that they don't want to p-off the J-League clubs who would flatly refuse to release the players. Similar thing happened when we played the kids in a crucial qualifier in Yemen last year, primarily because of security and timing of the damn thing. Had it not been for Hiroyama that night, Okada would have been hammered in the press for his selection.

    Also who can forget Endo's mysterious injury at the Olympics a few years back in Beijing? He seemed to go over that fairly quickly. Club v country does exist but in a probably less magnified form than in England. I don't think its a matter of the player's desire (Wilshere was more than happy to play for the u21's for example) its essentially the power of the management and the clubs which are standing in the way.

  • Comment number 30.

    @25 - You've just answered your own question. Why on earth would an English language site use foreign diacritics for its readership? Those characters are not used in the English language.

    Does every newspaper in South America talk about Žigić or Džeko...?

  • Comment number 31.

    hi Tim.

    Senior national teams benefit from the U17 and U20 tournaments because it helps the players to get to know each other on the field, and once they get to the top level where they can only have a couple of days to train before matches, they have a collective memory and it is easier for them to display on the pitch what they have known since they were kids. At least the best players who make it to first division and excell can form a strong core that along with more experienced players and late comers can bring success to the national teams

  • Comment number 32.

    29. At 01:31am 3rd May 2011, Aarfy_Aardvark - save 606 wrote:
    Hate to harp on about it, but here in Japan you don't hear of all excuses under the sun to avoid playing for your country.

    -------------------------------------

    Unless of course you fly off to Argentina when all your domestic fixtures get rescheduled because of the earthquake. The JFA have even said they will pick European based players and then fill the rest of the squad out with kids. The reason of course being, is that they don't want to p-off the J-League clubs who would flatly refuse to release the players. Similar thing happened when we played the kids in a crucial qualifier in Yemen last year, primarily because of security and timing of the damn thing. Had it not been for Hiroyama that night, Okada would have been hammered in the press for his selection.

    Also who can forget Endo's mysterious injury at the Olympics a few years back in Beijing? He seemed to go over that fairly quickly. Club v country does exist but in a probably less magnified form than in England. I don't think its a matter of the player's desire (Wilshere was more than happy to play for the u21's for example) its essentially the power of the management and the clubs which are standing in the way.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No doubt it does exist, but at least Japan had a team at the Olympics, and arguably has more players of Jack Wilshere's commitment than we do.

    I think it's also fair to say the dynamic of Japanese football is different to that of the English game. Japan is still raising its profile (and has done a very good job, with J2 well and truly established, and evolution below that level to reflect the apparent growing popularity of the game here), and the national teams are an important part of that job. The performance and expectation in South Africa were a statement of where Japanese football is.

    Another difference with England is the clout business has in Japanese sport, e.g. the Kirin Cup, where it's very important that Mr. Kirin be seen handing over a cheque at the end of the game to one of Japan's PLAYING star names, not without, I'm sure, a few words in the JFA's ears.

    Sadly reflective of many other walks of life back home, English football thinks it's the one doing the sponsor the favour, and not the other way round. Too many people in the game take our fantastic product for granted. They should respect it more.

  • Comment number 33.

    Thanks Tim for such a nice post.Why dont you post twice in a weak.I always wait for your post.
    You are right Tim only few players of england have ever played outside their country.I think english people wants to live as close as possible to their country.They love their country and they dont want to live there only.But play outside their country is very different they can learn lot of new tactics and skills from other countries like Brazil.This would help rise of english football

    shama praveen,
    c programming

  • Comment number 34.

    26. At 23:56pm 2nd May 2011, Ewan_Forest wrote:
    Yet another Englishman living in Medallo and can't wait for the tournament to start. To the chaps who mentioned doing work at the tournament I know that they are currently hiring translators, guides etc to accompany the squads. I'll try to get my hands on the email address and post it here, but it should be on the official Colombia Sub 20 site as well.

    Which terrace are you both going to go? I'll be in Norte, maybe we can organise a mini English barra brava... lol (I'd invite Tim to join in, but I imagine he'll be sipping his champagne in the press box!)

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Any more info on the translator, etc. jobs - I tried to look on the FA website but with no luck. If you have any idea I would be very interested. On going to the games, I will be in Oriental but defintely up for a "barra brava"!! We should meet up!

  • Comment number 35.

    @34:

    Hi Tom,

    These are the two email addresses I was sent. I'm not sure when the application deadline is though. I sent them an email a week or so ago, but haven't heard anything yet. The only criteria they mentioned was being able to speak English and Spanish, have a love for football, and to be available for the duration of the tournament. There was no mention of whether or not they are accepting foreigners, but the friend who passed me the email seemed to think non-Colombians could also apply.

    volmundialsub20fifabogota@hotmail.com
    edna.gamba@idrd.gov.co

    A meet up sounds good! You can find me on Facebook: Ewan Dinwiddie

  • Comment number 36.

    Drooper - the Olympics argument is completely irrelevant. England / Wales / Scotland / Ireland do not field teams at the Olympics due to the desire of the individual FAs not to have their power diluted within FA. It's got nothing to do with a lack of desire on the player's part or the English's perceived self-importance.

  • Comment number 37.

    great article. looking forward to reading your covering of the wc

  • Comment number 38.

    36. At 06:44am 3rd May 2011, IanW wrote:
    Drooper - the Olympics argument is completely irrelevant. England / Wales / Scotland / Ireland do not field teams at the Olympics due to the desire of the individual FAs not to have their power diluted within FA. It's got nothing to do with a lack of desire on the player's part or the English's perceived self-importance.

    ______________________________________________________________________

    It's true that the the British FAs don't want to give up one inch of ground, and I didn't mean to infer our not having any representation in the Olympics reflected on the players in this instance. Neither do I think I said our absence was due to a sense of self-importance. I mentioned the Olympics to highlight the hunger of the likes of the Japanese FA to participate in these kinds of tournaments, a hunger that I argue has been absent at the FA because of other priorities.

    The sense of self importance you refer to was the relationship between the FAs and sponsors I was distinguishing between.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hello to the world from Medellin Colombia, from a family as warm as Tim has pointed out who used to live in England. We would be greatly honoured to have any British tourists or players with us. Anyone interested please get in touch with my daughter Juanita who is reading communication at the Universidad Nacional and has a university assignment regarding the under 20 soccer world cup. juaniscalle@hotmail.com

  • Comment number 41.

    The biggest problem for young players in England is there isn't something for 18-21 year olds who are too good for reserve football but not yet good enough for say the Premier League, whilst loans can work out - its not quite the same as playing with the same players.
    I m savita bhabhi is also a biggest fan of English team playres.

  • Comment number 42.

    @28 I've written a couple of articles on Iturbe not sure if I can post links on here but one was for Goal.com yesterday and another on In Bed With Maradona a couple of months back called 'Guarani Messi'

    @30 Most newspapers here make plenty of mistakes but two rights don't make a wrong! I can't understand why the BBC can't press Alt + 0241 to put in the ñ - it is necessary because it totally changes the pronunciation of the word. Otherwise they should spell it Cerro Portenyo at least so it makes sense in English!

  • Comment number 43.

    England vs Argentina sounds very interesting, and in Medellin. A big party for both sets of fans afterwards I would suggest. Hit the zona rosa, parque lleras. Wish I could be there. Mexico too will be technically sound, so very likely that our young english players will have to outmuscle the two latinamerican sides, unless there's a generation of Wilshires I haven't heard of. And he just got called up to the U-21 championships, so probably not going to the U-20s.
    Well worth going to Cartagena too, but fly cos the bus ride is too long and over airconditioned.
    I always get excited when a brit goes to play in a major league abroad, or when I find out about a player or manager abroad who had slipped under the radar, like Paul Lambert for instance. A CL winner with Dortmund. It's tragically rare and while mostly money related, is also due to the vast majority of brits not having the language skills or cultural awareness to try living in a non-anglo saxon country. I'm glad to see the flow of home nations rugby players to France (even if motivated by money, the rugby players have received a better education than their football counterparts and can adapt), and don't expect to ever see such a phenomenon of our football players moving to Spain, Italy or Germany. Not until the money drains from the premier league elsewhere at least. So much the better if that ever happens.
    There are at least three brits in Lyon's team in the french 2nd division of rugby!

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great blog Tim! Always enjoy your unique insight on south American football. Makes me wish the BBC would replicate the concept amongst other continents!

    Anyways, I find it hard to believe that any of the European sides are taking the tournament seriously, given there's the euro u-21 in June/July.

    Isn't it about time the u-20 calendar was also synchronised? There was a bit of pressure on the African nations to move the cup of nations away from the even years to avoid having it in world cup years, so why not the same for the u20s?

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Tim, I totally agree - the tournament in Colombia will be fantastic. And re your point about taking these competitions seriously... exactly. So why don't England or other home nations bid for them? One thing Fifa want is grass roots development - what better way to demonstrate this than with youth tournaments?

  • Comment number 47.

    Sounds like a tough group with Argentina, England and Mexico and then add in the great unknown that is North Korea. With this U20 tourney taking place when most leagues are in their preseason that should ensure most top U20 players will be available. And as discussed here Erik Lamela of River should be available for Argentina and his presence should make Argentina a much better team than we saw with the Lamela-less team in South American qualifying.

    Two who may not be at the U20 World Cup are Neymar who likely will play for Brazil in the Copa America earlier in the summer and Mexico's Erick Torres, the top scorer this league season with Guadalajara who also likely will be playing for his country in the Copa America. Neymar played for Brazil in qualifying for the U20 World Cup, Torres however was not released by his club for Mexico's qualifying campaign. I saw a few of Mexico's qualifying games and even without Torres they are a formidable team. No real superstars in the making but a good solid team with plenty of skill and speed. Costa Rica were not bad either and have a very good support striker in Joel Campbell.

    Also watch for Nigeria who have the base of the team which two years ago were U17 World Cup runnersup.

    Soccer Futbol Forum
    http://z8.invisionfree.com/Soccer_Futbol_Forum/index.php

  • Comment number 48.

    Q - His performance and goal scoring is amazing! He is an astonishing striker noted for his ability to finish with both feet, a strong burst of pace and his intensity of play, also good in the air. He's not tall (I'd say same height as Rooney). He has great potential with his head, he will surprise all of us with his abilities.
    Another interesting article. Always good to read.
    bali villas

 

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