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Under 20 World Cup outright preview: Big guns expected to prevail

After a four-year hiatus, the Under 20 World Cup returns with Argentina getting the honour of hosting the 23rd edition of the tournament.

The 24-team event gets underway on Saturday, May 20th after a troubled build-up which has seen several high-profile players being refused permission to play, despite the tournament’s star-making quality. 

The Under 20 World Cup has launched the careers of numerous world superstars with Diego Maradona, Bebeto, Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Kaka, Xavi, Paul Pogba, Erling Haaland and Lionel Messi amongst those to have played at the youth tournament. 

Eleven different nations have won the Under 20 World Cup in the past with Ukraine the last team to lift the trophy in 2019. 

They won’t get a chance to defend their crown having failed to qualify and early indications are it could be a more familiar name on the trophy this time around.

WhatFIFA Under 20 World Cup 2023
When20th May - 11th June
OddsBrazil 11/4, Argentina 11/2, France 8/1, England 8/1, Colombia 10/1, Uruguay 10/1

Brazil (11/4)

Brazil are back at the Under 20 World Cup having failed to qualify for the last two editions and will fancy their chances of reaching a fourth final in their last six appearances in the competition. 

The majority of their squad have already tasted tournament success this year after edging our Uruguay to claim the South American Youth Championship in February. 

Vitor Roque and Andrey Santos finished as the joint top scorers in the South American event with six goals each, earning them admiring glances from Europe. 

Santos has since signed for Chelsea and he and Roque will be leading the charge of the largely Brazil-based squad.

Argentina (11/2)

No side has won more Under 20 World Cups than the hosts, who scooped their sixth and last title in 2007. 

They’ve since failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals of the tournament and were knocked out in the first group stage in the South American Youth Championship. 

Hopes are high for a better showing from Javier Mascherano’s youngsters on home soil though, having won the World Cup the last time they hosted the event in 2001. 

They’ve been placed in a very winnable group alongside Uzbekistan, Guatemala and New Zealand so should expect to make the knockout stage.

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France (8/1)

Despite a procession of future superstars having come through the France Under-20 ranks, the Little Blues have only ever won one world title. 

Their sole success came in 2013 when a certain Paul Pogba was named player of the tournament. 

It’s tough to pick out the next Pogba amongst the current crop, largely down to France being refused permission to call up as many as 28 players, amongst them Chelsea's Malo Gusto, Mathys Tel of Bayern Munich and Montpellier's hotshot Elye Wahi. 

With the tournament falling outside FIFA’s international window, teams are within their rights not to allow their players to travel and France are one of the sides to have suffered the most.

England (8/1)

England are another team to have been blocked from selecting some notable players, including Chelsea’s Carney Chukwuemeka, who has been stopped from travelling to Argentina. 

Head coach Ian Foster, one of three Englishmen coaching at the tournament, says it wasn’t easy selecting his squad as a result but his travelling party still has a competitive look with Aston Villa's Aaron Ramsey and Liam Delap of Man City called up. 

They’ve landed in a group with a strong Uruguay side but should still make the knockout stage given they’ll also face Iraq and Tunisia in the first round. 

Some familiar faces were part of the only England side to win the tournament in 2017, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ademola Lookman, Lewis Cook and Dominic Solanke part of the setup that year.

Colombia (10/1)

Colombia have never won the Under 20 World Cup, a third-place finish in 2003 the best the South American nation have managed. 

But they’ve performed well at recent South American Youth Championships, making the semi-finals in four of the last editions and winning the title in 2013. 

In more familiar surroundings and with plenty of support, Colombia are hopeful of a strong showing. 

Hector Cardenas has been able to call up 17 of the 21 players that finished third in the South American Championships, although exciting forward Jhon Jader Duran hasn't been given permission to play by Aston Villa.

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