Monday 20 May 2019, 20:59

Poland 2019 beckons for 24 of world's best

  • Heavyweights, dark horses abound in race for U-20 crown

  • No repeat champion as 2017 winners England failed to qualify

  • Hosts kick off against Colombia on 23 May

The stage is set for the start of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. The European country is hosting a FIFA tournament for the very first time and it is sure to be quite an occasion, given the competition’s reputation for nurturing stars of the future.

With just a few hours to go before the ball starts rolling back and forth across Poland, previews the tournament.

Essential info

  • Dates: 23 May to 15 June 2019

  • Number of teams: 24, drawn into six groups

  • Number of matches: 52

  • Opening match: Poland-Colombia on 23 May (Lodz Stadium, 20:30 local time)

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup DGroup EGroup F
PolandItalyNew ZealandQatarMaliKorea Republic
TahitiMexicoUruguayUSASaudi ArabiaSouth Africa

A vacant throne

The tournament’s reigning champions are England, who lifted the trophy for the first time at Korea Republic 2017, courtesy of a narrow 1-0 win over a combative Venezuela side that never gave up.

The holders failed to claim one of the five qualification berths on offer at the 2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, however, which means that they will be handing the trophy over to a new owner come 15 June.

The favourites

Portugal head into the tournament as European champions and pose a significant goal threat thanks to a potent attack and supporting cast. Argentina, the most successful side in the competition’s history with six titles, will be hoping to make the most of the absence of five-time winners Brazil for the second time running and add another trophy to their collection.

Third on two previous occasions, tournament regulars Mali are aiming to go two steps further and top the podium at last, while France will be looking to keep the good times rolling in French football and claim another piece of silverware.

Mexico will rely on their young stars to maintain their status as youth heavyweights, with the likes of Diego Lainez and Jose Juan Macias already making their way in the professional game. The Mexicans have been drawn in the same group as Ecuador, who won the South American title with a fine blend of pace and lethal finishing.

Grzywek, mascot for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019

The outsiders

Though there are no newcomers at this year’s tournament, there are several teams capable of upsetting the odds. Among them are Panama, who have never advanced beyond the group phase but boast a group of players who are starting to gain experience abroad.

Saudi Arabia have gone 27 years without winning the Asian qualifiers, though they have achieved four top-three finishes in that time. Can they now make an impact on the global stage?

Italy, despite their inconsistent appearance record in the competition, possess the character and defensive strength Gli Azzurri have always been noted for.

So who will emerge victorious on 15 June? The answer to that question is sure to prove exciting as the action unfolds over the next few weeks.

A general view of the Bielsko-Biala Stadium

Did you know?

  • 631 of the players who have graced the U-20 world finals have then gone on to play at the FIFA World Cup™. Fourteen of them have won both competitions.

  • Argentina’s Javier Saviola is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 11 goals.

  • A total of 91 countries have appeared at the U-20 World Cup.