(Throughout the week, we will go through every group and let you know what to look for and what to expect in the U-20 World Cup)
The FiFA U-20 World Cup gets underway staring on Friday, and Group D promises to be one of the most tightly contested groups in the competition. Not to mention, that one of the key matchups comes in the first game day of the group and it will decide early on who will have the advantage going forward in the tournament.
This group features two mainstays of U-20 international soccer, in Mexico and Uruguay, and two rising powers that could easily be contenders for the group as well, in Mali and Serbia. The Malian squad will come to play with a high pressure defense and the Serbian squad, making their first appearance as an independent nation, will try to make their first visit to the U-20 World Cup a memorable one.
Let us review Group D and we will examine players you should get to know, and who is tipped to win the group to move on to the knockout stages of the U-20 tournament.
Group D Teams:
Mexico (14th appearance), Uruguay (13th appearance), Serbia (3rd appearance, 1st as independent nation), Mali (6th appearance)
Group D Schedule (All Games on FOX Networks):
Saturday, May 30 – Mexico vs. Mali, 9:00 PM ET, Fox Sports 2
Sunday, May 31 – Uruguay vs. Serbia – Midnight ET, Fox Sports 2
Wednesday, June 3 – Mexico vs. Uruguay – Midnight ET, Fox Sports 1
Wednesday, June 3 – Mali vs. Serbia – 3:00 AM ET, Fox Sports 2
Saturday, June 6 – Mexico vs. Serbia – Midnight ET, Fox Sports 1
Saturday, June 6 – Mali vs. Uruguay –Midnight ET, Fox Sports 2
Players to Watch in Group D: Hirving Lozano (Mexico) and Gastón Pereiro (Uruguay)
Hirving Lozano and Gastón Pereiro are two players that can provide an offensive edge to their teams in this tournament. Lozano plays for Mexican side Pachuca, where he has scored eight goals in 34 appearances in the 2014-15 Liga MX season and is already receiving offers to play overseas. For the national side, Lozano won the Golden Boot in the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 championship (along with USA’s Romain Gall) scoring five goals in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Pereiro has been equally impressive playing with Uruguayan side Nacional scoring six goals in 24 appearances in the 2014-15 Primera División. Along with getting a tattoo of his idol/teammate, Pereiro managed to score five goals in the CONMEBOL Youth Football Championship, finishing second to Argentina’s Giovanni Simeone. Look for these young men to have an impact in boosting up their respective team’s offensive numbers in New Zealand.
X-Factor in Group D: Uruguay’s Offense
One of the most important factors of the U-20 World Cup is Uruguay’s offense that mainly consists of three players: midfielder Mauro Arambarri, forwards Gastón Pereiro and Franco Acosta. In the South American Youth Football Championship, these three young men accounted for 80% (12 goals) of the team’s offensive production and we will expect to see them create more opportunities in New Zealand. Along with those three goalscorers, are the ones who set them up: midfielders Rodrigo Amaral and Facundo Castro, who each had 4 assists in the same competition. Look for them to be the game changers in this edition of the tournament.
Most Important Game: Mexico vs. Uruguay
This game will be key in positioning for the number one and two spots, as the winner of this game (in my opinion) will move on to win the group. This game will feature not only two great attacking teams in Mexico and Uruguay, (Mexico scoring 18 goals in CONCACAF Championship play and Uruguay 15 in the CONMEBOL Championship) but also great defenses (Mexico allowing three goals while Uruguay allowed only five in nine games). However, this game something has to give and this game will the pivotal point in deciding which team will top the group.
Teams To Automatically Move On: Mexico and Uruguay
Mexico and Uruguay look like the stronger clubs and I have them tipped to move on. Mali and Serbia will give a great fight, but in the end Mexico and Uruguay look stronger on offense, as Mali and Serbia have been great on defense but struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball. These teams might not seem like they have the potential to go far, but Uruguay is the defending runner-up and Mexico has a strong side that might surprise people in the deep stages of the tournament.