July 9, 2007

U-20 World Cup Notebook - Group Stage Roundup and Round of 16 Predictions

It's already been a fantastic tournament so far, which makes me wonder why we didn't take the Cupcake Nation north of the border to see some matches.

Some of the highlights so far:

- Poland's opening day victory over Brazil, despite playing more than an hour a man down.

- The United States' 6-1 win over Poland. Nobody could have seen it coming, considering how bad the US looked against South Korea and how good Poland looked against Brazil.

- Seeing the future of Mexico together once again. 9 of the 11 starters in their 2-1 win over Portugal played together when they won the 2005 U-17 World Cup.

- All 4 African teams advancing. None of these four teams played in the 2006 World Cup in Italy, showing the difference between youth sides and senior sides.

- The United States' 2-1 win over Brazil. A great showing on ESPN that's helped get some more exposure to this wonderful tournament.

- The crowds. The Canadian people have turned out for this tournament big time.

Players of the tournament thus far:

Freddy Adu, USA - A special mention goes out to this guy. How did he answer his critics after the South Korea match? Oh, he just went out and scored a hat trick against Poland. He put his stamp on the last two matches for the Stars and Stripes and has lived up to the hype. The most critical part of this team right now. He MUST continue playing this well if the USA has dreams of winning the whole thing.

Danny Szetela, USA - For a guy who's only seen 34 minutes in one match for the Crew this season, his breakout has been a huge surprise. His goal against South Korea turned out to be huge, and he followed it up with two more against Poland. Pretty good for a guy who still hasn't scored in MLS, after all the Adu-like hype about him turning down an offer from Everton to stay home.

Josmer Altidore, USA - The third part of the trifecta for the USA. He finally got off the schneid against Poland, and his two goals against Brazil are the two biggest he's probably scored in his life thus far. Once again, he needs to be on point and find the goal for the USA to have a shot at the title. But, as the youngest member of the team, he's shown maturity well beyond his 17 years and has shown himself to be the future goal-scorer of the US National Team.

Giovanni Dos Santos, Mexico - The heart and soul of the Mexican team. While Carlos Vela has yet to score in the tournament, Dos Santos has picked up the slack, finally waking his team up in the first match against Gambia. Everything goes through him, and he's showing why he's being call "The Mexican Ronaldinho." Easily the Most Valuable Player of the tournament thus far.

Sergio Aguero, Argentina - The Atletico Madrid player has been the man on the spot for the Albiceleste with three goals thus far. Showing the promise that made his move to Spain such a big story, he's shaken off the disappointment of a forgettable first season across the Atlantic to step up for his country. With Lionel Messi skipped over for duty with the senior team in Copa America, Aguero has stepped into the spotlight for the time being.

Adrian Lopez, Spain - The tournament's leading scorer with 4 goals, the Deportivo La Coruna striker has scored half of his team's goals thus far. Granted, three of them came in 10 minutes against Jordan, but it's still something to take note of. The Spaniards will rely on him if they are to get past Brazil in the Round of 16 and challenge for the title.

Round of 16 matches:


USA v. Uruguay - 7:45 p.m. EST - Toronto - It seems that the hiccups are over for the US following their opening match against South Korea. Uruguay limps in following a 2-0 defeat to Zambia and will be without suspended keeper Mauro Goicoechea. Prediction: USA 3, Uruguay 0

Austria v. Gambia - 7:45 p.m. EST - Edmonton - The Gambians are coming off a huge win over Portugal, so I'm picking them in a mild upset. Prediction: Gambia 1, Austria 0

Spain v. Brazil - 11:15 p.m. EST - Victoria - The game to watch on Wednesday. It'll be a tossup as nobody really knows if we've seen the real Brazil yet. Prediction: Brazil 2, Spain 1

Japan v. Czech Republic - 11:15 p.m. EST - Vancouver - The Japanese should be the favorites, playing great defense in only allowing one goal in the group stage. But their lack of offense (1 goal in their last 2 games) might be asking for trouble. Prediction: Japan 1, Czech Republic 0


Argentina v. Poland - 4:45 p.m. EST - Toronto - The Poles pulled off the shocker of the First Round, but turned around and were whacked by the US. I don't think they can keep this Argentine team under wraps. Prediction: Argentina 3, Poland 0

Zambia v. Nigeria - 4:45 p.m. EST - Ottawa - Another interesting match, as the all-African match will prove difficult to call. You never know how things will shake up between two teams from the same confederation. But Nigeria still hasn't allowed a goal in the tournament, and I'm counting on their defense to see them through. Prediction: Nigeria 2, Zambia 0

Mexico v. Congo - 7:45 p.m. EST - Montreal - With a possible matchup against Argentina awaiting, the Mexicans could be looking ahead. But with such an experienced squad, I don't see it happening. Prediction: Mexico 2, Congo 0

Chile v. Portugal - 7:45 p.m. EST - Edmonton - I'm sure the Chileans aren't too happy about getting Portugal this early. But the Portuguese have lost their last two matches, and lost Bruno Gama with an injury to boot. Prediction: Chile 1, Portugal 0

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