Under-20 World Cup preview

Brazil coach sacked on eve of finals.

Brazil, traditionally one of the favourites ahead of the Under-20 World Cup, will go into the 2015 tournament in New Zealand without coach Alexandre Gallo, who was sacked following a poor fourth place at the South American Under-20 Championship in Uruguay. He had also been due to take charge of next year’s Olympic team and that responsibility will now fall to Brazil’s senior coach, Dunga.

Gallo had made drastic changes to the squad that will now travel to New Zealand under his replacement Rogerio Micale. His list of 26 players included just nine of the players who went to Uruguay in January.

There was no place for Atletico Paranaense’s Chelsea-bound midfielder Nathan, who did well at under-17 level but badly in Uruguay. Much more surprising was the absence of Fluminense’s Gerson, a left-footed midfielder of undoubted pedigree. His exclusion may have been the final straw for new federation boss Marco Polo Del Nero, and the news of Gallo’s sacking was announced at a strange time – late on Friday night, where it was “buried” by the start of the Brazilian championship. On the previous Tuesday, Dunga had held a press conference to announce Brazil’s Copa America squad.

Amid the confusion, there was a place in Brazil’s squad for Manchester United’s Belgian-born midfielder Andreas Pereira.

Argentina, the winners of January’s South American Under-20s, will take a strong squad to New Zealand. Coached by Humberto Grondona, son of the late Argentinian FA overlord Julio, the squad contains a number of promising players, including River Plate’s Gio Simeone (the son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego), Atletico forward Angel Correa and Real Madrid-bound goalkeeper Augusto Batalla.

In the absence of 2013 champions France, the European challenge is likely to come from Germany and Portugal, the two finalists from the most recent European Under-19 championship. Germany can call upon that competition’s top scorer, Davie Selke of Werder Bremen, while Portugal’s hopes are pinned on forwards Andre Silva of Porto’s B team and Rony Lopes, who has been on loan at Lille from Manchester City.

Mexico have high hopes after winning the CONCACAF under-20 championship, where the goals of striker Hirving Lozano were crucial, while the USA have received clearance from FIFA to include Arsenal midfielder Gedion Zelalem in their squad. The youngster was born in Germany but lived in the US for six years before moving to London.

The Asian challenge will be led by Qatar, the surprise winners of the most recent regional under-19 championship. Their top scorer from that tournament, Ahmed Al Saadi, is one of a number of players who play for the controversial Belgian club Eupen.

Hosts New Zealand are coached by former Watford, Wolves and Walsall defender Darren Bazeley and their squad includes Alex Rufer, son of ex-international Shane and nephew of Wynton.

SCHEDULE

GROUP A
May 30    New Zealand v Ukraine     Auckland
May 30    United States v Myanmar     Whangarei
Jun 2    Myanmar v Ukraine     Whangarei
Jun 2    New Zealand v United States     Auckland
Jun 5    Myanmar v New Zealand     Wellington
Jun 5    Ukraine v United States     Auckland

GROUP B
May 30    Argentina v Panama     Wellington
May 30    Ghana v Austria     Wellington
Jun 2    Argentina v Ghana     Wellington
Jun 2    Austria v Panama     Wellington
Jun 5    Austria v Argentina     Wellington
Jun 5    Panama v Ghana     Auckland

GROUP C
May 31    Qatar v Colombia     Hamilton
May 31    Portugal v Senegal     Hamilton
Jun 3    Qatar v Portugal     Hamilton
Jun 3    Senegal v Colombia     Hamilton
Jun 6    Senegal v Qatar     Hamilton
Jun 6    Colombia v Portugal     Dunedin

GROUP D
May 31    Mexico v Mali     Dunedin
May 31    Uruguay v Serbia     Dunedin
Jun 3    Mexico v Uruguay     Dunedin
Jun 3    Serbia v Mali     Dunedin
Jun 6    Mali v Uruguay     Hamilton
Jun 6    Serbia v Mexico     Dunedin

GROUP E
Jun 1    Nigeria v Brazil     New Plymouth
Jun 1    North Korea v Hungary     New Plymouth
Jun 4    Nigeria v North Korea     New Plymouth
Jun 4    Hungary v Brazil     New Plymouth
Jun 7    Brazil v North Korea     Christchurch
Jun 7    Hungary v Nigeria     New Plymouth

GROUP F
Jun 1    Germany v Fiji     Christchurch
Jun 1    Uzbekistan v Honduras     Christchurch
Jun 4    Germany v Uzbekistan     Christchurch
Jun 4    Honduras v Fiji     Christchurch
Jun 7    Honduras v Germany     Christchurch
Jun 7    Fiji v Uzbekistan     Whangarei

ROUND OF 16
Jun 10    Gp B 1st v Gp A/C/D 3rd     Wellington     37
Jun 10    Gp D 1st v Gp B/E/F 3rd     Dunedin     38
Jun 10    Gp A 2nd v Gp C 2nd     Wellington     39
Jun 10    Gp A 1st v Gp C/D/E 3rd     Auckland     40
Jun 11    Gp B 2nd v Gp F 2nd     Whangarei     42
Jun 11    Gp F 1st v Gp E 2nd     Christchurch     41
Jun 11    Gp C 1st v Gp A/B/F 3rd     Hamilton     43
Jun 11    Gp E 1st v Gp D 2nd     New Plymouth     44

QUARTER-FINALS
Jun 14    44 winner v 43 winner     Hamilton     45
Jun 14    37 winner v 41 winner     Christchurch     46
Jun 14    39 winner v 38 winner     Auckland     47
Jun 14    42 winner v 40 winner     Wellington     48

SEMI-FINALS
Jun 17    45 winner v 48 winner     Christchurch
Jun 17    47 winner v 46 winner     Auckland

THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF
Jun 20        Auckland

FINAL
Jun 20        Auckland