clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Teams to watch at the 2019 U-17 World Cup

Who could the U.S. face after the group stage?

FC Metz v Paris Saint-Germain - Ligue 1 Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

The 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup kicks off in Brazil, with 24 countries vying to be named champions. The United States earned a spot in the tournament by finishing runners-up at the 2019 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. Raphaël Wicky’s side was drawn into a stacked Group D, with Senegal, AFC champions Japan, and UEFA champions the Netherlands (as found in the Group D Preview).

It’s an uphill climb for a talented U.S. side, but youth international tournaments frequently have unexpected results as countries are missing their best players. This year’s U-17 World Cup should be no different based on the list of notable absences. If the Americans are able to advance to the knockout rounds, here’s a look at some of the teams they could face.


How they got here: Host nation

It’s a good thing that Brazil was named as the host of the tournament because the Seleção wouldn’t have been remotely close to qualifying. An underwhelming performance at the 2019 South American U-17 Championship resulted in the side failing to reach the final group stage of the competition. However, that is all in the past as Brazil looks to win its fourth World Cup and first since 2003. The roster features the usual collection of future superstars from the biggest clubs in Série A. Brazil will be without top attacker Reinier Jesus, who was reportedly not released by Flamengo. In place of the absent star, Talles Magno (Vasco de Gama) will be the main option; the striker has already scored two senior goals in the domestic league.


How they got here: Won 2019 South American U-17 Championship

This is a strong generation of Argentine players that also won the 2017 U-15 South American Championship. The Albicelestes has to compete in a fairly tough group with Spain, Cameroon, and a hearty Tajikistan side that finished runners-up at the Asian U-16 Championship. Matías Godoy and Matías Palacios led Argentina in scoring during the continental championship, with the latter being compared to Juan Riquelme by his manager. Bruno Amione and Alan Velasco are also players to watch; both were included in The Guardian’s list of next generation talents.


How they got here: Won 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations

Cameroon emerged victorious from the continental championship, finishing top of the group and winning two penalty shootouts. This is the second World Cup for Les Lions Indomptables, having previously qualified for the 2003 edition of the tournament. Star player Stève Mvoué already debuted for the senior national team and is set to join Toulouse this winter; the midfielder won the MVP award at the Cup of Nations and scored 11 goals in 19 appearances at the under-17 level. Cameroon will be without European-based players Etienne Eto’o (Mallorca) and Barel Fotso (Roma) because the program reportedly placed a priority on the domestic league for youth national teams.


How they got here: Won 2019 CONCACAF U-17 Championship

Mexico is looking to win its third World Cup (2005, 2011) and is always a threat at any youth competition. However, Marco Antonio Ruiz’s team is heading into the tournament slightly on the wrong foot; in recent friendlies, El Tri lost to Argentina, 3-1, and had underwhelming victories against New Zealand and Canada. The key player to watch for USMNT fans is eligible dual-national Efraín Álvarez, who plays for the LA Galaxy. Eduardo Garcia, Eugenio Pizzuto, Jesús Gómez, and Israel Luna were named to the CONCACAF U-17 Championship Best XI and are included on the World Cup squad. Barring a complete collapse or an incredibly impressive performance by the Solomon Islands, Mexico should ease into the knockout rounds by finishing second or third in Group F.


How they got here: Fourth place at 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations

Nigeria has won the U-17 World Cup a record five times, including the 2013 and 2015 editions of the tournament. Manager Manu Garba selected a squad that only includes 11 players from the Cup of Nations, with goalkeepers Daniel Jinadu (West Ham United) and Joseph Oluwabusola (AFC Bournemouth) being the marquee names. Group B isn’t the toughest quartet to outpace, which gives this exceedingly young Nigerian side a chance to work its way up to speed and advance.


How they got here: Semi-finalist at 2019 UEFA Under-17 Championship

This is one of the most purely talented teams at the tournament, with arguably the best attacking prospect. Adil Aouchiche broke the record for goals at the UEFA Under-17 Championship with 9 and recently made his debut for Paris Saint-Germain. Midfielder Lucien Agoumé of Inter Milan and attacker Nathanaël Mbuku of Reims will also play key roles. France came up short at the European championship, surrendering a lead and falling to Italy in the semifinal, a result that has stuck with the players. “We didn’t deserve to lose that day, but it happens sometimes,” said goalkeeper Melvin Zinga. “Now we need to consign that to history and do better.”


How they got here: Runners-up at 2019 UEFA Under-17 Championship

Another team unable to bring one of its best players, Italy will have to manage without Sebastiano Esposito. The striker scored 14 goals in 20 appearances at the under-17 level, but his services are needed at Inter Milan. AC Milan’s Lorenzo Colombo, who scored three goals at the European championship, will be expected to pick up the attacking slack. Lorenzo Pirola leads a defense that has struggled to keep opposing teams off the board, which could present a problem when the Azzurri aren’t scoring in bunches.


How they got here: Semi-finalist at 2019 UEFA Under-17 Championship

As one would expect, Spain’s squad features academy players from all of the big clubs in La Liga. Attacking midfielder Pedri has already made 10 appearances and scored three goals for Las Palmas’ senior side, earning a future move to Barcelona. One big missing name is Barcelona star Ansu Fati, who “would have been included in the roster” had he been “available for selection.” Despite his absence, Spain should be able to emerge from the meat grinder that is Group E. La Rojita has finished as runners-up four times at the U-17 World Cup, but this may finally be the year they break through.

What teams are you excited to watch at the U-17 World Cup? Let us know in the comment section.