With Brazil and Argentina both absent from the field, the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013 is missing its two traditional favourites. That has left a number of sides competing for top billing, and while Colombia look strong candidates after clinching the South American title, Mexico will surely have their say too after winning the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic crown. No one should rule out Turkey either, with the host nation desperate to thrill their passionate and demanding fans.
The second day of action thus looks set to deliver plenty of intrigue as all three of those hopefuls begin their bids, following on from the likes of Spain and France. The trio can expect stiff challenges, however, with Australia and El Salvador keen to frustrate Colombia and Turkey respectively in Group C, and Greece targeting the scalp of Mexico in Group D. Elsewhere, Paraguay and Mali will lock horns in what promises to be an evenly matched encounter.
Colombia-Australia (Trabzon, 18.00)
Turkey-El Salvador (Trabzon, 21.00)
Mexico-Greece (Gaziantep, 18.00)
Paraguay-Mali (Gaziantep, 21.00)
Due to serve a suspension, Colombia's Deivy Balanta is the only player missing out of the eight teams in action.
The match of the day
Confidence is soaring in the Colombia ranks thanks to their recent form. Los Cafeteros followed up their triumph in the South American U-20 Championship by reaching the final of the recent Toulon Tournament. The only down side for Carlos Restrepo's charges is that they are now being eyed by their rivals as a team to treat with special care, despite their own coach claiming that, "Turkey are the favourites." All the same, if they hope to keep their superb momentum going, Colombia will need to overcome an Australia side unlikely to make life easy.
"Australia are very physical and they base their game on their power," said Restrepo, perhaps mindful of the last meeting between the two nations in this tournament. That came in the opening match of the 1993 edition, when the Young Socceroos edged a 2-1 win in a hard-fought game that yielded ten yellow cards.
The other highlights
After Colombia and Australia get the day's action under way in Trabzon, it will be the turn of hosts Turkey to take the field. Feyyaz Ucar's side will start as heavy favourites against an El Salvador team making their debut at this level, and the home favourites will be desperate for he three points to make a perfect start and leave their supporters in good cheer.
Mexico are likely to have a healthy following in the stands as well – as they do in every tournament – but they could easily be outnumbered in Gaziantep as El Tri open their campaign against Turkey's neighbours Greece. Mexico nonetheless hold the advantage in terms of experience, having made a habit of winning youth competitions, whereas Greece are FIFA U-20 World Cup debutants.
The second game in Group D looks to be a more balanced affair on paper. Back in the global showcase after missing Colombia 2011, Paraguay will be eager to make up for lost time, while Mali possess a squad rich in Europe-based talents and have pedigree at this level, the sparkling Seydou Keita having led them to third place in 1999.
The player to watch
Maikon Orellana (SLV)
Boasting the first name of a Brazilian footballer and the family name of a Spanish explorer, El Salvador forward Maikon Orellana seems destined to travel impressive distances with the ball glued to his feet. Billed as his country's Cristiano Ronaldo, the young marksman was born in Chalatenango, made his start in the game for MLS side Real Salt Lake and now plies his trade with Danish outfit Brondby. In terms of his strengths, Orellana resembles Ronaldo with his gift for the spectacular and exciting dribbling ability, allied with pace, excellent technique, and a free-kick method that recalls Real Madrid's Portuguese star. Those qualities could well prove vital as La Selecta look to trouble the hosts.
2 - The host nation have won the FIFA U-20 World Cup on a mere two occasions over the previous 18 editions of the tournament. Portugal blazed the trail in 1991 and Argentina followed suit ten years later; have Turkey got what it takes to become the third?