(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.)
One of the last groups to play in this 2015 U-20 World Cup, Group E will feature some of the giants in world youth soccer. The biggest of these is of course Brazil, who is only behind Argentina in U-20 World Cup wins. Both Nigeria and Hungary shouldn’t be discounted, however, and North Korea will certainly aim to spoil somebody’s party this year.
The three front runners for this group (Nigeria, Brazil and Hungary) are known for consistently churning out future stars in some of Europe’s top leagues. Former U-20 stars from these teams include Ronaldinho, Neymar, Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses, Ogenyi Onazi, Krisztian Nemeth, Balazs Dzsudzsak, and many, many other Brazilians. What can I say, they know how to make a soccer player in Brazil. Brazil is coming off of a really disappointing South American Youth championship, where they placed fourth behind Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay. They will seek to set themselves on the right path here.
Nigeria, on the other hand, is coming off of winning the 2015 African Youth Championship. This will see the team in high spirits and good form. Hungary will want to have a say in the matter, as well, having recently defeated Turkey 5-2 and Ukraine 4-1. Finally, North Korea. While not a ton of information is available about this team, this is the same group of players who made it to the Asian Football Confederacy U-19 Championship final, ahead of teams like Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
Group E Teams:
Nigeria, Brazil, North Korea, Hungary
Group B Schedule (All Games on Fox Networks):
Sunday, May 31: Nigeria vs. Brazil, 9PM ET FS2
Monday, June 1: North Korea vs. Hungary, Midnight ET FS2
Thursday, June 4: Nigeria vs. North Korea, Midnight ET Fox Soccer Plus
Thursday, June 4: Hungary vs. Brazil, 3AM ET FS1
Sunday, June 7: Brazil vs. North Korea, 1AM ET FS2
Sunday, June 7: Hungary vs. Nigeria, 1AM ET Fox Soccer Plus
Player to Watch in Group B: Andreas Pereira, Brazil
One of the highest rated youths in the Manchester United academy right now. So much so that there was a contract standoff this season that threatened to turn out like Paul Pogba a few years ago, with one of their highly rated youths leaving on a free in search of playing time. United fans will be glad to hear that he has signed a new long term contract with the club.
So what makes him so exciting of a player? Well, he is a free kick specialist, for starters. He is also comfortable sitting in the midfield, pulling the strings, or moving forward and getting more involved in the attacking aspects of the game. As a former Belgium youth international, he showed he was not afraid of getting forward and scoring, scoring 13 goals in 27 appearances with the Belgium youth team before switching nationalities to Brazil.
X-Factor in Group E: Which Brazil Shows Up
Brazil as a soccer nation is as storied as it gets. They have had success at every single international age level and they consistently bring through new and exciting talent. That being said, they were disappointing in the South American youth championship. This has led manager, Rogerio Micale, to opt for a more experience squad (comparatively).
Brazil has the talent to win the group, or at the very least qualify for the next stage handily, but if they under-perform, both Nigeria and Hungary have the ability to surprise them. If Brazil play as well as they can, though, and shrug off the bad form they showed previously, we can expect to see them in the 2015 U-20 World Cup knock out rounds. Until the tournament starts, however, that “if” will remain.
Most Important Game: Nigeria vs. Brazil
While other games will become more important as the group stages go on, this game will set the tone for how the remaining games will play out. In part, it will answer the “if” that was brought about in the section above. If Brazil come out and beat Nigeria, it will send a message to both the rest of the group and the rest of the tournament. We are Brazil and we are here to win. If Nigeria defeats Brazil, however, it will show there are still lingering doubts about this Brazilian youth team and pressure will begin to mount. A draw will give hope to Hungary that maybe this is there year. Any outcome will give us a new story to follow for the rest of the stage.
Automatically Move On: Brazil, Nigeria
This one is really tough to call since there are three fairly strong teams in this group (sorry North Korea). Still, I expect Brazil to bounce back and win the group. There’s just a lot of talent in that team and now have a good mix of experience as well. Nigeria is coming off of winning the African youth championship and always field a strong team. I expect Hungary to really give them a push, but to just fall short at the final hurdle.