U-20 World Cup

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Mourinho: Man Utd defense “in trouble”, drafting in Tuanzebe

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Eric Bailly better be ready to roll.

Aside from youngsters, Bailly and Daley Blind are the only fit senior center backs in Manchester United’s set-up after Marcos Rojo joined Phil Jones and Chris Smalling on the injured list during Thursday’s UEFA Europa League win over Anderlecht.

[ MORE: Mourinho gushes over Rashford ]

And manager Jose Mourinho isn’t mincing words about his team’s plight. While Ander Herrera and Ashley Young sat out Thursday’s match and will be ready for Sunday’s match at Burnley, Mourinho looks set to call upon 19-year-old Axel Tuanzebe for help.

From ManUtd.com:

“We are in trouble,” Mourinho said. “We are in trouble.

“Herrera is fresh to play. Ashley Young is fresh to play and who else? Nobody else is fresh to play! Now we need absolutely everyone and I don’t have to think about Axel Tuanzebe going to the Under-20 World Cup in Korea because maybe Axel has to come now. We need everybody.”

Mourinho also lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a knee injury on Thursday, and United’s run-in toward the Top Four is anything but easy. With the Europa League also in play to qualify for next season’s UCL, how will Mourinho use his players?

Earlier this week we discussed whether United should focus on Europa for UCL qualification… now that discussion intensifies.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.

U-20 World Cup roundup: Knockout round set as Brazil, Germany lead way on final group stage day

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The final day of the group stage produced plenty of expected results, but also some drama as teams locked up the final spots in the knockout round.

Brazil and Germany became the second and third teams behind Portugal to finish their group stages a perfect 3-0-0, dominating the competition en route to their place in the next stage. In more dramatic fashion, Uzbekistan picked up its first points of the competition on the last day of the group stage, but it was enough to send them through in the German-dominated group.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup coverage ]

With the final four games a wrap, here’s how they went down:

Brazil 3-0 North Korea

The Brazilians flirted with disaster in their first two matches, trailing both Nigeria and Hungary at some point across each one despite eventually finding themselves victorious. Here, it was much more pedestrian, and while it took a good hour for the Seleção to get on the scoresheet, they’d put the game away swiftly once the ball hit the back of the net.

It was all Brazil in the first half as North Korea sat back and accepted pressure, but the Group E minnows would not concede through the first 45 minutes, making a goal-line clearance and weathering a few shots off the iron to keep it even at the break. It would eventually come, however, as Brazil poured on the pressure and a weak shot from Jaja took a massive deflection off the foot of Min Hyo Song into the back of the net for an own goal. Jean Carlos would carve up the defense to add a second six minutes later, and a third from Leo Pereira would seal it late as Brazil out-shot North Korea 23-2.

Nigeria 2-0 Hungary

Both teams were likely already through thanks to work earlier in the tournament, but Nigeria cemented their place as the Group E runners up thanks to a brace from Taiwo Awoniyi that bracketed halftime, and a Nigerian defense that locked down 4-goal scorer Bence Mervo.

Nigeria forced a number of acrobatic saves from Gyorgy Szekely before finally finding the breakthrough in the 33rd minute as Saviour Godwin burst up the right side and teed up Awoniyi from close range for his first. The second half got under way as Hungary’s Mario Nemeth rattled the crossbar soon after the break but a wayward backwards header from the Europeans in the 54th minute gifted Awoniyi a breakaway, and he buried the chance. Nigeria’s efforts unfortunately earn them a date with title-hopefuls Germany, while Hungary become the last team through on the third-place table.

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Germany’s Hany Mukhtar bagged his fourth goal of the tournament as they ran through Group F.

Germany 5-1 Honduras

With a loss to Fiji in the previous round, it was always going to be near impossible for Honduras to qualify for the knockout stages, and that reality hit hard as the CONCACAF side was well beaten in Christchurch. Five different goalscorers powered home scores for Germany, and the Europeans marched their way to the most dominating group stage performance of the tournament with a perfect record and a +14 goal differential.

Marc Stendera got things started in just the second minute by slotting home an early penalty, and while it was even for a moment as an own-goal leveled things before 20 minutes, a 30th minute strike from Julian Brandt would put the Germans back up for good before a trio of second-half goals would do the trick. One of those came from Benfica youngster Hany Mukhtar, his fourth goal of the tournament after bagging a hat-trick against Fiji in their tournament opener. The win for Germany would secure Senegal’s place in the knockout stages via the third-place table by eliminating Honduras.

Uzbekistan 3-0 Fiji

With Germany steamrolling Group F, the battle for second-place was a cannibalistic nightmare. Uzbeistan sat bottom of the table having lost to both Germany and Honduras in the first two rounds, but still ended up through after limiting the damage against the Europeans and making their move on the final day. With all three teams on three points, Uzbekistan moves on thanks to a superior goal differential.

With the score level at the break, a somewhat comedic moment led to the opener as a pair of poor shots from Eldor Shomurodov resulted in a goal as the second efford was spilled by the Fiji goalkeeper. Uzbekistan would get another just a minute later as a shot from Zabikhillo Uriboev from a tight angle also trickled through the keeper’s hands. It was a formality from there as Uzbekistan collected the final-day win to move on.

KNOCKOUT ROUND MATCHUPS:

With the group stage finalized, there are plenty of solid matchups to go around. The United States – the only CONCACAF team left standing with Mexico, Panama, and Honduras eliminated – will get a June 10 matchup against Colombia at 3:30am ET. There are a few games featuring members of the same region, as Ghana will take on fellow Africans Mali, while Brazil and Uruguay square off in an all-CONMEBOL tie. The most intriguing matchup seems to be Germany vs. Nigeria, as the Europeans dominated Group F but their African opponents are no slouches, giving Brazil a run for their money before handling North Korea and Hungary.

Ghana vs. Mali
Serbia vs. Hungary
United States vs. Colombia
Ukraine vs. Senegal
Austria vs. Uzbekistan
Germany vs. Nigeria
Portugal vs. New Zealand
Brazil vs. Uruguay

Taking a look at the United States’ U-20 World Cup roster

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The United States kicks off its U-20 World Cup run with a match against Myanmar at Midnight ET, and will look to emerge from a relatively winnable group with Ukraine and hosts New Zealand.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup preview ]

But who will be mixing it up for the Yanks over the coming weeks?

Well, there’s obviously plenty of talent to go around, even with Hoffenheim back Russell Canouse forced out of the lineup by injury. That’s a blow, but the addition of Conor Donovan from Orlando City doesn’t make for a steep drop-off.

A fair bit of forewarning: the positions below are up for debate when it comes to certain players. Kellyn Acosta plays plenty of right backs, but looks to feature in a midfield set-up for the States. There’s plenty of versatility in the mix.

Goalkeepers: Jeff Caldwell (University of Virginia), Thomas Olsen (University of San Diego), Zack Steffen (Freiburg)

Steffen is the name most familiar to our readers after the 6-foot-3 Pennsylvanian left the University of Maryland after his sophomore season with the Terps. Olsen was his conference’s freshman of the year, while Caldwell posted a .99 GAA as a freshman.

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Conor Donovan (Orlando City), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Shaquell Moore (Huracan Valencia), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting KC), Desevio Payne (Groningen), John Requejo (Tijuana)

A loaded group, Palmer-Brown has been well-scouted here and abroad, while Carter-Vickers has received plenty of work for Spurs youth set-up. Payne is a pacey outside back while Moore is well-regarded. Matt Miazga is a Homegrown Player for RBNY, where he regularly starts.

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Tijuana), Marco Delgado (Toronto FC), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Joel Sonora (Boca Juniors), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal)

Zelalem is among the most talked-about names in recent U.S. history, and will get his chance to shine as an American player. His silky moves and creative soccer IQ could wow, and Hyndman also has the skill set to impress fans. He got plenty of work in England’s Championship this year.

Forwards: Jordan Allen (Real Salt Lake), Bradford Jamieson IV (L.A. Galaxy), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Maki Tall (Red Star), Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes)

This group is loaded, with Maki Tall likely the only player many U.S. Soccer fans need to know more about. How about this? Once expected to declare allegiance to France, Tall is on the books for Lille, but playing for a third-tier French side. The other four should be fairly familiar, as forwards get plenty of pub. Thompson has some nifty feet, Allen is finding his form after a brutal injury and Rubin has seen time with the senior side.

U-20 World Cup preview: The groups, the favorites, USA outlook and the game’s future stars

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Night owls, rejoice, for the 2015 U-20 World Cup, which is being played in New Zealand, kicks off late Thursday night or very, very early Friday morning (depending on what time zone you live in).

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s U-20 WC coverage ]

The bi-annual tournament returns and brings with it yet another showcase of some of the world’s very best up and coming talent from all corners of the globe. Want to see the next great South American star from Brazil or Argentina? The U-20 World Cup is the place to do just that. Oh, and the Americans are back for a second straight cycle, carrying expectations as heavy as any wave of youngsters dawning the Stars and Stripes have in quite some time.

The groups

Group A — Myanmar, New Zealand (hosts), Ukraine, United States

Group B — Argentina, Austria, Ghana, Panama

Group C — Colombia, Portugal, Qatar, Senegal

Group D — Mali, Mexico, Serbia, Uruguay

Group E — Brazil, Hungary, Nigeria, North Korea

Group F — Fiji, Germany, Honduras, Uzbekistan

The favorites

Hey, guess what — Brazil, Argentina and Germany have lots more really good, young players coming through the pipeline, so expect them to be around for the latter stages.

Unlike the big World Cup, winning at the youth level isn’t so much about being the best team as it is having the best player, or collection of two or three players. Fortunately for the above mentioned sides, they’ve got both top-end talent and overall better, deeper squads than most.

But don’t be surprised when someone unexpected — think Uruguay, Nigeria or Mexico — has one of the tournament’s leading scorer or assist men, and rides that wave of production to a semifinal or finals appearance. It happens almost every youth tournament — Ghana and Iraq bowed out in the 2013 semifinals.

USA outlook

source: Getty Images
Emerson Hyndman, Fulham FC & USMNT

This time around, the draw was kind to Tab Ramos & Co. Remember that vicious 2013 draw — Spain, France and Ghana? Woof. It went about as poorly as was to be expected — one point and a minus-6 goal differential.

Ukraine, New Zealand and Myanmar is an infinitely better draw. In fact, failing to make it out of the group would be a massive failure. From there, the Baby Yanks could face any one of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Portugal, Mexico, Uruguay, Serbia or Nigeria. Obviously winning the group becomes advantageous to avoid some of the heavyweights.

Qualification was pretty straightforward for Ramos’ squad after struggling in their first two group games (1-1 vs. Guatemala, 0-1 vs. Panama). The roster features a number of changes from qualification, but optimism surrounds a side with first-team regulars for their respective club teams — Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Tommy Thompson (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls) and Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas) — making up much of the expected starting 11.

Stars of the future

Angel Correa, forward, Argentina & Atletico Madrid — 20 years old — Moved from San Lorenzo (Argentina) to Atletico Madrid last summer, but missed six months of his first season in Spain after a tumor was discovered on his heart. Scored 12 goals in 65 league games in Argentina’s first division, as a teenager.

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Kelechi Iheanacho, Manchester City & Nigeria

Kelechi Iheanacho, forward, Nigeria & Manchester City — 18 years old — Was the star (Golden Ball winner) of Nigeria’s U-17 World Cup-winning side back in 2013. Moved to Man City shortly thereafter, where he’s impressed for the Citizen’s reserve side.

Andreas Pereira, midfielder, Brazil & Manchester United — 19 years old — Made his Premier League debut this season, before signing a new three-year contract weeks later. Belgian-born, but a frequent standout for Brazil’s youth teams at all levels.

Giovanni Simeone, forward, Argentina & River Plate — 19 years old — The son of Atleti manager Diego, Giovanni made his first-team debut for River not long after his 18th birthday. Born in Madrid, could have played for Spain, but elected to play for the country of his father’s birth.

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Hirving Lozano (left), Pachuca & Mexico

Hirving Lozano, midfielder, Mexico & Pachuca — 19 years old — Nearly 50 appearances for Pachuca’s first team, including 29 this season (7 league goals); 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship (qualifying tournament) Golden Boot winner

Andrija Zivkovic, midfielder, Serbia & Partizan — 18 years old — 60 first-team appearances for Partizan; scored 5 league goals each of the last two seasons (12 total, all competitions); made 10 appearances in Champions League qualification playoffs and Europa League this season.

Diego Poyet, midfielder, Uruguay & West Ham United — 20 years old — Another son of a famous father — former Sunderland manager Gus — Diego made a handful of first-team appearances this year, his first season with the Hammers.

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Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal & USA

Gedion Zelalem, midfielder, United States & Arsenal — 18 years old — Crowned the next savior of American soccer long before his switch from German to American international was approved. Just a pair of first-team appearances for Arsenal, but rave reviews from Arsene Wenger have USMNT supporters crazed with hope and excitement.

Godfred Donsah, midfielder, Ghana & Cagliari — 18 years old — Made his Serie A debut at 17 years old; scored twice for a relegated Cagliari side this season after becoming a regular in the first team (20 starts).