Colombia U-20 World Cup Preview by Sebastian Ferro
The Colombian U20 team is heading to Argentina for the U20 World Cup this weekend. They earned their place by coming in third in the CONMEBOL U20 Championship this past winter when they were the hosts. It was a very impressive tournament for the team, five wins, three draws, one loss. Colombia has performed well in this tournament since the turn of the 21st century, reaching the quarterfinals in the 2019 World Cup and reaching their highest ever finish of third in the 2003 edition of the tournament.
The tournament is made up of 24 teams placed into 6 groups of 4 teams. After each team plays the other team once, also known as a round robin, the top 16 teams move on to the knockout stage. This means that the 2 two teams from each group will advance alongside 4 teams that finish third in the group. Third place teams that will advance are selected based on points earned within their respective groups. For each team, 21 players are selected to the final roster, three of which must be goalkeepers.
Colombia’s U20 squad will play in Group C alongside Senegal, Japan and Israel. Group stage match play will kick off on Sunday, May 21th against Israel followed by Japan on Wednesday, May 24th and Senegal on Saturday, May 27th.
Final Tournament Roster
Manager: Hector Cardenas
GK: Juan Castillo (2003), Fortaleza C.E.I.F. (COL)
GK: Luis Marquinez (2003), Atlético Nacional (COL)
GK: Alexi Rojas (2005), Arsenal FC (ENG)
CB: Kevin Mantilla (2003), Independiente Santa Fe (COL)
CB: Daniel Pedrozo (2004), Real Cartagena (COL)
CB: Fernando Alvarez (2003), CF Pachuca (MEX)
CB: Julian Palacios (2003), Envigado FC (COL)
LB: Andres Salazar (2003), Atlético Nacional (COL)
RB: Edier Ocampo (2003), Atlético Nacional (COL)
RB: Devan Tanton (2004), Fulham (ENG)
DM: Jhon Velez (2003), Junior FC (COL)
CM: Gustavo Puerta (2003), Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
CM: Jhojan Torres (2004), Independiente Santa Fe (COL)
CM: Juan Castilla (2004), Houston Dynamo (USA)
AM: Yaser Asprilla (2004), Watford FC (ENG)
AM: Daniel Luna (2003), RCD Mallorca (ESP)
AM: Miguel Monsalve (2003), Independiente Medellín (COL)
AM: Alexis Manyoma (2003), Cortulua FC (COL)
WING: Oscar Cortes (2003), Millonarios FC (COL)
CF: Jorge Cabezas Hurtado (2003), Independiente Medellín (2003)
CF: Tomas Angel (2003), Atlético Nacional (COL)
Jhon Jader Duran (2003), Aston Villa FC (ENG): Club Declined
Isaac Zuleta (2003), Getafe CF (ESP): Injury
Luis Miguel Angulo (2004), Allianza Petrolera (COL): Not Selected
Mateo Mejia (2003), Manchester United (ENG): Not Selected
Juanda Fuentes (2003), Barcelona (ESP): Not Selected
Luis Quintero (2004), Villarreal CF (ESP): Not Selected
Roster Analysis and Expectation:
When looking at the finalized roster for the U20 World Cup, Colombia is a solid team with high level talent up and down the roster. 17 of the 21 players that came in third in the South American Youth Championship this past winter are on this roster. While there are some surprises based on who was called up and who was not, overall I think this squad has the potential to make it to the latter stages of the World Cup.
There are some notable omissions from the squad for me, the biggest loss for Colombia being Jhon Jader Duran.The talented forward has featured for the first team Colombian squad, however he was not given clearance by his parent club, Aston Villa, to participate. Additionally, the presence of several notable players with European experience will not be featured in the tournament as well. This includes Isaac Zuleta who is out through injury, as well as Juanda Fuentes and Luis Quintero who were surprisingly not selected by manager Hector Cardenas. As of last week, Fuentes has been training with Barcelona’s first team while Quintero has been impressive with Villarreal’s U19 squad.
The biggest strength for the Colombian squad is the experience carried over in all facets of the team. From the goalkeepers to the attack minded players, the side features players that excelled in the South American Youth Championship a few months ago. Many highly rated players have recently transitioned to a new squad following their standout performances, like Bayer Leverkusen’s Gustavo Puerta, while others will be using this tournament to further improve their valuations ahead of the summer transfer window. A new addition that I am excited to watch this month is Watford’s Yaser Asprilla. The highly rated attacking midfielder has actually never featured at the youth level but already has several caps with Colombia’s first team. Featuring comfortably in the English Championship, this can be his tournament to shine.
Overall I believe that Colombia has some very good opportunities to excel in this year’s edition of the U20 World Cup, however they have been placed in the “Group of Death.” Senegal are the reigning U20 African champions, Japan are rated the 3rd strongest side from Asia, and Israel made it to the UEFA U20 final before losing to England. That being said, I believe that the experience in this side as well as the even distribution of talent will propel Colombia out of the group. From there it’s anyone’s game.