Saturday 28 July 2018, 11:18

Defending U-20 champions’ curse continues

  • Six successive U-20 champions have failed to return to defend their title

  • England the latest holder to miss out

  • We look back at a run stretching back a decade​

After Norway booked their first trip to the FIFA U-20 World Cup for 26 years at the expense of England, the Scandinavians unwittingly continued a surprising trend for the tournament.

The Three Lions’ absence extends a run of the last six reigning champions being unable to defend their title at the next U-20 World Cup. Ever since Argentina retained the title in 2007, holders have stumbled in their quest to reach the competition at the next time of asking, showing the unpredictable nature of youth football.

Here we take a look back at the sides who triumphed, where they slipped up on their return and highlight a future star name, who emerged from the side who missed out.

Canada 2007 champions: Argentina How they triumphed: With no fewer than six players, who would go on to appear at the senior FIFA World Cup™, including the likes of 2014 finalists Sergio Aguero, Sergio Romero and Angel Di Maria, they steamed through to see off Czech Republic in the final.

Star name: Sergio Aguero. Top scorer and golden ball winner in 2007, he has gone on to be a Brazil 2014 runner-up and a three-time English Premier League winning Manchester City legend.

How they missed out in 2009: Failed to find their feet at the 2009 South American U-20 Championship, exiting in the second stage.

A star in their midst: Eduardo Salvio. While eliminated then, the wide-man and now Benfica favourite would go on to appear for Argentina at Russia 2018.

Egypt 2009 champions: Ghana How they triumphed: Captain Andre Ayew pulled the strings, but it was Dominic Adiyah – who top scored and was named the tournament’s best player – that stole the headlines, with eight of the side heading to South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014.

Star name: Andre Ayew. ‘Dede’ has gone on to captain the Black Stars, as well as helping them to finish second at two CAF Africa Cup of Nations.

How they missed out in 2011: Finished behind Cameroon and Nigeria in the race for a spot in Colombia.

A star in their midst: Richmond Boakye. The current Jiangsu Suning forward would return to help Ghana earn a U-20 bronze medal at Turkey 2013, including scoring a key last-16 winner.

Colombia 2011 champions: Brazil How they triumphed: With two-thirds of the midfield trio that would start at Russia 2018, Brazil struck 18 times on their way to victory, with a sublime Oscar hat-trick earning them victory in a thrilling final against Portugal.

Star name: Philippe Coutinho. While Casemiro has blossomed since as well, Coutinho is showing how key he is to the current Seleção set-up, with some sensational displays in Russia for the now-Barcelona man.

How they missed out in 2013: A surprise defeat to Peru saw them miss out on the final stage of the South American U-20 Championship entirely, having seemed set to progress.

A star in their midst: Rafinha. The Barcelona midfielder, son of World Cup winner Mazinho, has gone on to lift the UEFA Champions League title and win Brazil’s first Olympic gold in men’s football.

Turkey 2013 champions: France How they triumphed: After a stumbling start, Les Bleuets kicked into gear, with the likes of Paul Pogba, Samuel Umtiti, Florian Thauvin and Alphonse Areola – all now senior World Cup winners – leading the way.

Star name: Paul Pogba. Their inspirational captain in Turkey, having walked away with the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament's top player, Pogba has gone on to become a world-class star, scoring the third goal in the Russia 2018 Final.

How they missed out in 2015: A trio of draws meant France surprisingly failed to reach even the second stage of qualifying on the way to the 2014 UEFA U-19 Championship.

A star in their midst: Adrien Rabiot. A mainstay of the Paris Saint-Germain midfield, Rabiot has been part of the side that has won 12 domestic trophies in the past five seasons, including three trebles.

New Zealand 2015 champions: Serbia How they triumphed: An underdog story, featuring what could be a pivotal generation for Serbia – with five of that side at this year’s senior World Cup – they battled through four successive extra-times to triumph on their tournament debut as an independent nation.

Star name: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. One of the world’s most sought-after youngsters, Milinkovic-Savic has excelled of late in Italy’s Serie A with Lazio.

How they missed out in 2017: A solitary goal by someone called Kylian Mbappe denied Serbia a place at the 2016 UEFA U-19 Championship. Wonder if anything ever came of him?

A star in their midst: Nikola Milenkovic. Would go on to play every minute for Serbia at Russia 2018, being one of their brightest sparks of the tournament.

Korea Republic 2017 champions: England How they triumphed: While unfancied before the tournament, a 3-0 opening win over Argentina set them going before some dogged displays and slick attacking play eventually culminated in a 1-0 win over Venezuela in the final.

Star name: Dominic Solanke. Less than a year later, the adidas Golden Ball winner was watching from the bench, as Liverpool faced Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final.

How they missed out in 2019: A 3-0 defeat to Norway in the European play-off for a spot at Poland 2019 saw them miss out.