Race begins for Turkey’s dark horses
© AFP

Overwhelming favourites are conspicuous by their absence on day three of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, with all four matches seemingly too close to call. Yet among the octet of teams involved are a few potential dark horses who, given a positive start, could well prove to be title contenders.

The Schedule
Sunday 23 June (all kick-off times are local)
Group E
Chile-Egypt (Antalya, 18.00)
England-Iraq (Antalya, 21.00)

Group F
New Zealand-Uzbekistan (Bursa, 17.00)
Uruguay-Croatia (Bursa, 20.00)

The Absentee
Chile midfielder Claudio Baeza, who is banned for one match, is the only player with a suspension to serve.

Match of the Day
The pitting of Africa’s champions against a South American side packed full of individual talent makes for an intriguing offering in Antalya’s opening fixture. Egypt and Chile both arrive with genuine ambitions of going the distance here at Turkey 2013, and their exploits during qualifying and in pre-tournament friendlies suggest that anything is possible.

The only certainty, it seems, is goals. Both sides boast a wealth of attacking options, and each has been in free-scoring form in the build-up to the tournament. Egypt warmed up for the big kick-off with a 5-3 win over New Zealand, while Chile swept aside Tahiti’s senior side 7-0, prompting the Oceanian champions’ coach, Eddy Etaeta, to tip the young South Americans to make “a big impression” at Turkey 2013.

Other Highlights
Group E’s other match brings together two of the competition’s most unpredictable sides. England are regulars at the FIFA U-20 World Cup and have plenty of fine players, as they proved in seeing off a highly-rated Uruguay side 3-0 in Antalya earlier this week. However, their record at these world finals has been little short of woeful in recent editions, and a bucking of that trend will be required against Iraq. It will be interesting, meanwhile to see how the west Asians cope after a clutch of their top players were involved for the senior team against Australia on Tuesday in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers.

In Group F, New Zealand will need to plug the defensive leaks that were so apparent against Egypt when they go up against an Uzbekistan side packed full of FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 veterans. And there should be plenty of good football and competitive spirit in Bursa’s later encounter, when Uruguay and Croatia – two of the competition’s most intriguing outsiders – go head-to-head in hope of establishing an early foothold.

Player to watch
Saleh Gomaa made a huge impact on Egypt’s triumphant CAF U-20 African Championship campaign, earning the tournament’s Golden Ball award for his inventive displays. The skilful playmaker, who is reportedly on the verge of a move to the Bundesliga, is sure to be a key player for the Pharaohs once again as they attempt to unlock the Chilean defence.

The Number
1
- England have scored just once in their last 16 matches at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Can they bolster that miserable tally against Iraq?

The Tweet

Uruguay's Turkey 2013 hopefuls pose ahead of the tournament