Friday 15 February 2019, 06:54

Argentina's U-20 golden boys

  • Argentina will contest their 16th U-20 World Cup in Poland

  • Four Argentinian aces have won the tournament’s Golden Ball

  • looks back on some fresh-faced Argentinian footballing royalty

Argentina became the first team from South America to book their place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019, finishing second overall at the 2019 South American U-20 Championship.

The Class of 2019 will be hoping to impress in Poland like the Argentinian footballing royalty who have made their mark at the tournament in years gone by.

The U-20 World Cup’s most successful team with six titles, Argentina have boasted four standout performers from those victorious sides who went on to win the adidas Golden Ball – the award recognising the tournament's top player.

Before prospects such as Santiago Sosa, Julian Alvarez and Adolfo Gaich take to the field in Poland in May, takes a look back on the Argentina stars who have claimed the Golden Ball at the U-20 World Cup.

Argentina captain Diego Maradona celebrates on the shoulders of team mates after they had beaten Russia 3-1 to win the 1979 FIFA World Youth Championships

Diego Maradona, 1979

The 1979 FIFA World Youth Championship in Japan heralded the arrival of a truly exceptional talent. Known as El Pibe de Oro (Golden Boy), Diego Maradona was the first Argentinean recipient of the tournament’s Golden Ball – giving football fans a glimpse of the wonder that was to come.

Then with Argentinos Juniors, Maradona scored in all but one of Argentina’s six games at the tournament, including their third in the final against the Soviet Union. Along the way, he illustrated his extraordinary passing ability, free-kick mastery and goalscoring prowess.

Three years after Japan, Maradona was playing on the biggest stage of them all: the FIFA World Cup. Though Spain 1982 did not go his and Argentina’s way, Maradona led La Albiceleste to glory at Mexico 1986 – a tournament in which he scored two of the most talked-about goals in football history.

Javier Saviola celebrates 

Javier Saviola, 2001

Javier Saviola was the undisputed standout performer of the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship, which also featured future stars such as Kaka, Landon Donovan and Rafael van der Vaart.

The pocket-sized forward delighted the Argentinian home crowd in a tournament that saw him claim both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe. Saviola registered a staggering 11 goals – five more than Adriano and Djibril Cisse, who finished in second – bagging two hat-tricks among that haul: one against Egypt in the group stage and the other against France in the quarter-finals.

Already capped at senior level by La Albiceleste before that tournament, El Conejo (the rabbit) made the wider world sit up and take notice with his performances at Argentina 2001. The 19-year-old was soon on his way to Europe after the competition had ended, joining giants Barcelona from River Plate.

Lionel Messi from Argentina scores the first goal during the FIFA World Youth Championships 2005

Lionel Messi, 2005

Nine years before claiming the adidas Golden Ball at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, Lionel Messi was proclaimed the Player of the Tournament at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship.

The second-youngest player in Argentina’s squad that year in the Netherlands, a baby-faced Messi displayed maturity far beyond his years as he spearheaded the team's successful bid for the title.

The Barcelona prodigy found the net in all of his side’s knockout-round games en route to claiming the Golden Boot, and two of his coolly dispatched penalties in the final sealed a 2-1 win against Nigeria.

Just a year later, Messi was appearing at his first World Cup and notched the first of his goals at the senior global final in his country’s 6-0 win over Serbia & Montenegro.

Sergio Aguero of Argentina

Sergio Aguero, 2007

Sergio Aguero became the first Argentinian to win the U-20 World Cup twice, following up on his gold medal at Netherlands 2005 with another at Canada 2007.

While Messi was the star of the show two years previously, Canada 2007 firmly belonged to Aguero. Like Saviola and Messi before him, the then Atletico Madrid hitman took home the Golden Ball and Golden Boot, capping off a sensational tournament in which he scored six goals – including the opener against Czech Republic in the final.

Like his Argentinian Golden Ball contemporaries before him, Aguero possessed that irresistible and rare individual genius that could turn a match. One of Aguero’s memorable goals scored at the tournament was against Poland in the Round of 16 – a stunner that was reminiscent of Pele’s famous flip-over-the-defender stunner in the 1958 FIFA World Cup Final.

Follow Poland 2019

Will the likes of Sosa, Alvarez and Gaich follow in the footsteps of Argentina’s Golden Ball boys by claiming the U-20 World Cup’s Player of the Tournament? Follow all the build up to Poland 2019 – and the tournament itself which kicks off on 23 May – with