The consensus is that Spain will win Group C at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and that the race for second place in the pool, and a guaranteed place in the Round of 16, is a wide-open race between Costa Rica, Australia and Ecuador. If that is to be trusted then much could rest on the outcome of the contest between the South Americans and the Asian representatives.
Australia-Ecuador, Sunday 31 July, Manizales, 6:00pm (local time)
The Young Socceroos are adept at hitting the ground running in this competition, having only lost one of their 13 curtain-raisers. And although that was in the previous edition two years ago, Jan Versleijen has a considerably stronger squad this time around, including highly-rated captain Ben Kantarovski and senior international winger Tommy Oar. Sixto Vizuete, who was at the Ecuador reins during their South Africa 2010 qualification bid, also has a full international at his disposal as he leads the country into their second FIFA U-20 World Cup: the jet-heeled Edson Montano, who plays his club football for Gent in Belgium and has been tipped to become one of the finest La Tri forwards in decades.
8 – The number of years since Australia last won a match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Since upsetting eventual champions Brazil 3-2 in a group-stage game at UAE 2003, the Socceroos have drawn twice and lost five times. Prior to their current seven-match winless streak, the Australians had recorded 16 victories and losses apiece in the tournament.
Jan Versleijen, Australia coach: “It is is good to have the majority of the squad back together that did so well at the AFC Championships last year. It is also good to see that since last October the majority of the players have progressed to the starting line-ups of their respective Hyundai A-League or overseas based clubs.”
Sixto Vizuete, Ecuador coach: “We don’t know much about the Australians yet, but in general terms their football has become very European in style. They’ve got very strong players and I can’t see their U-20 squad being any different.”