Wednesday 21 March 2018, 18:58

Teams taking part at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2018

Blue Stars 3

Teams taking part at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2018: Men

S.C. Internacional Porto Alegre (S.C. Internacional) Internacional’s U-20 side is currently one of the teams to beat in Brazil. At the much-vaunted U-20 tournament at the Copa Sao Paulo in January, the team went all the way to the semi-finals, going out on penalties to Sao Paulo, having routed Santos in the quarters 4-0. Sao Paulo went on to win the final 1-0 against Flamengo. Fans can expect a strong Brazilian squad to make the journey to Switzerland, with Internacional making their second appearance at the tournament. Back in 1998, they made it through to the final, losing to Grasshoppers on penalties.

Sporting Clube de Braga A new name from Portugal is heading to the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup this year. SC Braga’s senior team is currently fourth in the Portuguese league and all but certain of making it into Europe next season, having already enjoyed a fruitful UEFA Europa League campaign this time around (winning their group ahead of Ludogorets, Besiktas, and Hoffenheim before going out in the knock-out phase to Olympique Marseille). Braga has a long had a reputation for the quality of its youth teams, with the U-19s qualifying for the last eight of their championship and currently level on points with Sporting and Porto, behind leaders Benfica. The club also gets to ply its trade at one of the jewels in the UEFA EURO 2004 crown - the Estadio Municipal de Braga - which was carved out of the cliffs especially for the tournament 14 years ago.

RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (RCD Espanyol) While the club has a long-standing tradition in Spain, this is their first time at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup. Espanyol’s youngsters are near the top of the very strong Group 3 of the Division de Honor Juvenil and are expected to send what will be a good current snapshot of Spanish youth football to Buchlern.

Dinamo Zagreb The juniors from the most famous club in Croatia last played in the tournament in 2011. This will be their fourth participation and, as on previous occasions, fans can look forward to seeing a strong squad make the journey over.

West Ham United West Ham finished in a creditable fifth place in the event the past two years, and the English club will have little doubt knowing exactly what will be required of them, if they are to go all the way this time around. The club has a strong youth section that is highly motivated to prove itself on the international stage.

1. FC Koln Koln are towards the upper part of mid-table in what is a very strong West Group of the A-Junior Bundesliga this season. This will be the first time that they have come to Buchlern in a good few years, however. They were last here in 1990, and back in 1982, they had none other than Christoph Daum as their coach.

FC Zurich With three wins and three more final appearances at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in the last ten years, FC Zurich certainly know how to get to the business end of this tournament. They are also the top junior outfit in the Promotion League this season – a further testament to their quality.

Grasshopper Club Zurich The 'Hoppers' juniors are coached by Boro Kuzmanovic, and over recent years, have provided many a player for the first team. And while the youngsters may have fallen adrift of the upper echelons of the 1 Liga Classic of late, there is still a chance that they can make it into the top two and play off for promotion.

BSC Young Boys Bern The Young Boys youngsters are back in Zurich after a lengthy absence, and their return coincides with the first team looking like they will win at least the title, if not the double, after a long period without silverware. Their U-21s are coached by Joel Magnin.

FC Blue Stars Zurich The host team has made it through to the latter stages of the tournament on a few occasions in recent years, and this time around, they will again be looking to claim some more high-profile scalps.

Teams taking part at the Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup 2018: Women

ASD Femminile Inter Milano Inter Milan have shown in recent years that they have one of the best youth teams in the country. They were one of the stand-out teams in the spring round of the Italian U-19 championship last year, only losing to perennial champions (2014–2017) Roma on penalties.

Valencia CF Valencia CF Femenino’s youth team finished last season in first place in the Segunda Division Group VII. In Spain, the youth teams of the top clubs get to play in the second division of the senior championship, which certainly makes for a more intense competition. This season, Valencia currently occupies a very strong fourth place.

FC Zurich In recent years, FC Zurich have been the team to beat in Swiss women’s football. The first team won the double four times between 2012 and 2016, while the U-21s have also been battling it out at the upper end of the Swiss NLB. The U-19s, meanwhile, are currently third in their particular league.

Grasshopper Club Zurich This season, the Grasshoppers youth team has fallen away from the leading pack in the newly-formed U-19 league, but results since the winter break have indicated that a turn-around in fortunes might be on the cards.

BSC Young Boys Bern The Swiss U-19 league table does not lie – after 13 matches, YB had only dropped two points, and scored an incredible 91 goals, at an average of seven goals per match! There was also no letting up when the team from the Swiss capital played their counterparts from Zurich, showing no mercy whatsoever. While the YB women’s NLA team is a little off the pace, the youngsters are by far and away the pick of the crop.

FC Blue Stars Zurich The women’s team from the host club has one of the largest youth sections in Switzerland. Little wonder, therefore, that the FC Blue Stars B/11 juniors dominated the Regional Group 1 in 2016/17 and also the pre-Holiday season part of the current campaign. They also made the final of the regional cup last year, where they lost on penalties.