U20 WORLD CUP
Best players at the U20 World Cup: Who are the most exciting prospects in the quarter-finals?
We take a look at the young superstars to keep an eye on in this weekend’s quarter-final fixtures in Argentina.
The quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina kick off on Saturday. Across the weekend the eight teams still in the competition will be whittled down to just four.
Surprise package Nigeria knocked out hosts Argentina in the last-16, while pre-tournament favourites Brazil have bounced back from an opening day defeat to Italy to cruise into the final eight. Here’s the fixtures for the quarter finals…
For the players involved this is a chance to represent their country and potentially win some silverware on the international stage. However the tournament is also a chance for some of the most talented young players in world football to prove themselves against their peers.
Ahead of this weekend’s fixtures, we take a look at five of the most exciting stars left in the competition. Here’s who to watch out for this weekend..
Marcos Leonardo, Brazil
The 20-year-old striker is no stranger to those in his home nation of Brazil, having racked up 140 appearances for Santos already. A product of the club’s famed academy, Marcos Leonardo has scored eight times in 21 appearances already this season. He has scored four times in as many matches at this World Cup.
An explosive presence in the box and clinical finisher, his performances have alerted a number of Premier League clubs to his talents. Manchester United are thought to be leading the race to secure his signature, while Arsenal, Newcastle United and West Ham United are also interested.
Facundo Gonzalez, Uruguay
There is a proud tradition of Uruguayan defenders finding success in LaLiga. From Diego Godin to Ronald Araujo, Uruguay knows how to produce talented yet physically adept centre backs and Facundo Gonzalez could be the latest in that proud tradition.
The 19-year-old was born in Montevideo but joined Valencia’s academy in 2019, working his way up to the B team. In the last three years with Valencia Mestalla he has made 59 appearances and has become a stalwart for the U20 national team. After a poor season in LaLiga there will likely be big changes at Valencia this summer and he may soon get his chance with the first team.
Gabriel Slonina, United States
The Uruguay States face an attack-focused Uruguay side in their quarter-final on Sunday, but do so knowing that they have the best defence in the tournament. Incredibly, the US team have not conceded a single goal in their first four fixtures in Argentine. A large part of that record is thanks to the talents of 19-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.
He became the youngest goalkeeper in MLS history when he started for the Chicago Fire at the age of 17 years and 81 days. He was soon the subject of interest from the world’s top clubs and at 18 he signed for Chelsea for a fee of $10 million. He can expect to be in the thick of the action against Uruguay.
Cesare Cesadei, Italy
Another talented youngster currently on the books of Chelsea, Cesare Cesadei has been in incredible goalscoring form during this tournament. The midfielder has scored five goals in four games to lead the race for the golden boot. Included in that was a brace against Brazil and a crucial late penalty against England to book Italy’s place in the quarter-finals.
The 20-year-old signed for Chelsea from Inter Milan last summer and has spent the second half of 2022/23 on loan to second tier English club Reading. After making 15 appearances for Reading since January, he could be of interest to new Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino if he keeps up his World Cup form.
Victor Eletu, Nigeria
Nigeria managed to progress from a World Cup group featuring both Italy and Brazil, setting up a quarter-final tie with South Korea. The Super Eagles have made changes throughout their journey to the final eight but 18-year-old midfielder Victor Eletu has stood out for his calmness with the ball and dynamism without it.
The 2005-born holding midfielder joined AC Milan’s academy in 2018 and has worked up through the Italian side’s ranks. Last year, at the age of 17, he was named the captain of Milan’s Under-19 side, marking him out as a real leader. He got a crucial assist in Nigeria’s surprise win against Argentina in the last-16 and could be crucial against South Korea.