Let’s Stay Calm And THESE PHENOMS WILL ALL WIN THE BALLON D’OR
Let’s get one thing out of the way: these cats are young. They’re like kittens in that sense — feral, attack-minded, alley kittens. It’s easy to get hyped on talent at the FIFA U-20 World Cup because the game, at this age, so heavily favors attackers. The goals are beautiful, but they’re generally scored in acres of space and triggered by a breakdown in midfield or defense.
Goalkeepers and defenders are lacking a key ingredient in what makes them great later in their careers: experience. You might also say that teams are tactically naive at this age, but that’s for the best. This is the age for players to express themselves, to be more single-minded in their approach and a time for physically developed youngsters to use every personal advantage to brutalize the opponent. It’s fun to watch, but the U-20 World Cup clearly isn’t a crystal ball for gazing into the future.
Of the 12 players we’ve identified here, maybe one or two will go on to be world-renowned, while the others will simply go on to play professional soccer for a while and make a lot of money. Sounds awful, doesn’t it?
Take, for example, the winners of the tournament’s Golden Ball between 2009 and 2013. In 2013, Paul Pogba took home the award. He’s only gone on to bigger and better things since then.
In 2011, Brazil’s Henrique Almeida was the tournament’s top player. He’s since played for Sao Paulo, Granada, Botafogo and Gremio without really making a huge impact at any club. Still, that's a pretty impressive resume.
In 2009, Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah was the revelation of the tournament. He now plays for Nakhon Ratchasima in Thailand.
So there you have the full spectrum of what can become of players who dominate this tournament — it’s impossible to forecast. But whatever. Here are 12 players at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup that are all going to be better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo combined.
1-0 #USMNT! Josh Sargent scores to put ahead.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) May 25, 2017
Nobody really knew Josh Sargent before the U-20 World Cup kicked off. Yes, he excelled for the United States at the U-17 level, but if that really floats your boat, you have a problem.
But now Sargent is “U.S. Soccer’s next great hope”, he’s “USA’s 17-year-old rising soccer star”, he’s “an American revelation”, he’s “ready for Europe”. You can imagine just how shocked the U-20s of Ecuador and Senegal were when they came up against the ginger Pele.
We haven't seen a striker like this since Jozy Altidore was kicking the ball too hard as a five-year-old.
They didn't call him the Messi of South Korea for nothing. Lee Seung-Woo's showing Argentina's youth side how to play gambeta style. pic.twitter.com/NBazEKJE1Y
— Sivan John (@SivanJohn_) May 23, 2017
— neυropнaтe (@neurophate) May 20, 2017
Lee Seung-woo is 19, he’s been at La Masia since capturing Barcelona’s attention as a precocious 12-year-old and he now plays for the Barca B team. That should tell you everything you need to know about this young baller.
FT | Venezuela 2-0 Germany | Ronaldo Peña and Sergio Córdova get the U-20 World Cup started with a sensational win: pic.twitter.com/pQXW3Ek4uj
— Hispanospherical (@DarrenSpherical) May 20, 2017
— Hispanospherical (@DarrenSpherical) May 26, 2017
For attentive readers out there (wow, good job on your ACT), you’ll notice that I’ve snuck in two players in one slot! That’s because there are no rules, and I couldn’t choose just one Venezuelan representative when you’ve got these two La Vinotinto prodigies looking like a better South American pairing than Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. Also, Penaranda has nice hair.
They came, they balled, they conquered.
Jean Kévin Augustin vs. Honduras
The PSG 19 year old played very well in his debut for France in the U20 WC. pic.twitter.com/Up9cBoshQl
— EiF (@EiFsoccer) May 22, 2017
— Ufeat (@UfeatApp) May 22, 2017
Hey, have you heard the one about an insanely talented French forward who's the next Thierry Henry? Perfect, because here's another one. For a country that can’t even be bothered to call up Karim Benzema because Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Kevin Gameiro, Kylian Mbappe, Anthony Modeste, Valere Germain, etc., this is really just embarrassing now.
At least we've got Chris Wondolowski Jozy Altidore Jordan Morris Josh Sargent.
— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) May 24, 2017
I'm telling you right here, right now: the greatest goal call in the history of the game will involve Nicolas Schiappacasse. SCHIappaCASseeeeeeeeee!! It's more fun to say than Francisco. And he will eventually do a really important goal, because this kid has got straight tekkers.
He's only 18, but he rose through the ranks at River Plate to become a first team regular, and then Atletico Madrid asked him to sign "Straight up G" on the dotted line.
You might not recognize the name, but you know Riccardo Orsolini. I’ll show you how:
This man just ended his career.
— Football Vines (@FootballVines) February 24, 2017
To say that Orsolini is good at dribbling is to say that the Tin Man’s privates are made of sheet metal. It’s as clear as day. Not only is he as tricky as Run-D.M.C, he also drops bangers like a pack of rubber chickens.
— Vincenzo Marchetta (@Vince7up) May 25, 2017
— Jimmy Seed GS (@JamesMSeed) February 6, 2017
— Everton FC France (@EFCFrance) February 4, 2017
London-born Ademola Lookman was signed by Everton on January 5 and completed his remarkable rise to the Premier League by scoring against Manchester City only 10 days later on his club debut.
ICYMI: 19 year old English winger Ademola Lookman first goal for Everton vs Man City. [via Everton FC Belgium]pic.twitter.com/Z0MrGEo0kL
— 1960Bet (@1960Bet) January 16, 2017
This wizard of the wing hasn’t yet got on the scoresheet in South Korea, but he struck the post twice against the hosts after some zany dribbling tekkers. As Rufio would say, looky looky out for Lookman
Lautaro Martinez’s World Cup couldn’t have started any worse as he was dismissed against England via the Video Assistant Referee, thus becoming a historic piece of U-20 World Cup bar trivia.
— Peter Hampshire (@HampshirePeter) May 20, 2017
But Martinez returned for Argentina’s final group match and the number nine scored two belters for La Albiceleste.
Control, giro y hermosa definición de Lautaro Martínezpic.twitter.com/BDM8oyIfTz
— Ataque Futbolero (@AtaqueFutbolero) May 26, 2017
Mundial Sub20: Segundo gol de Lautaro Martínez. Argentina le gana 5 a 0 a Guinea en 78' pic.twitter.com/O5mFBL2Kfo
— Infobae Deportes (@InfobaeDeportes) May 26, 2017
You can retroactively take Martinez out of the game, but you can't take the game out of Martinez or something.
Fashion Sakala has got it all: the strength, the speed, the finishing ability and, most importantly, the name. He's got the look. The Zambian’s talents saw him move to Zanaco FC, the most decorated club in Zambian football history, at a young age.
From there, Russia’s most successful club, Spartak Moscow, signed him to a three-year deal.
Tremendo pase de Takefusa Kubo, y grandiosa definición de Ritsu Doan. Esta escena se repetirá en el Mundial 2022.
— Vahoos Hernández (@Vahooos) May 21, 2017
— Gabriele Anello (@nellosplendor) April 26, 2017
Ritsu Doan has just broken into the first team of Japan’s Gamba Osaka, scoring three goals in seven league matches. He’s the most highly regarded young talent in Japan, and he was given the AFC Youth Player of the Year award in 2016. There's also an unsubstantiated rumor, started by me, that he's going to bring balance to the force.
— Andrea Bracco (@Falso_Nueve_IT) May 22, 2017
20-year-old Bryan Cabezas is an All-Action-Jackson midfielder who’s already appeared for the Ecuadorian senior side and plays his football in Italy with Serie A’s Atalanta. Fun fact: he’s ambidextrous so nobody knows how in the hell to mark him.