U-20 stars working for World Cup chance

19 May 2018
  • A number of U-20 World Cup stars have won the senior edition

  • We look at quartet from 2015 and 2017 editions who could feature in Russia

  • Jesus, Silva, Bentancur and Alvarez profiled

The FIFA U-20 World Cup can act as a launchpad for a successful career, or at the very least a positive learning experience for any young player. If the senior FIFA World Cup™ is used as a barometer, then the evidence of the importance of its ‘little brother’ is clear.

Ten of Spain’s successful 2010 World Cup squad gained a grounding at the U-20 World Cup, while fabled World Cup winners Diego Maradona, Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho all featured at an U-20 World Cup before leading their country to glory at the senior edition.

With Russia 2018 approaching, FIFA.com looks at stars of the most recent editions of the U-20 World Cup who could feature at the senior finals this year.

Gabriel Jesus: Brazil / Manchester City

DOB: 3/4/97 (age 21)

At the 2015 U-20 World Cup:
  • Scored in opener against Nigeria

  • Laid on three assists for team-mates

  • Led side to final against Serbia

Their talisman Neymar aside, Gabriel Jesus is the Brazilian everybody is talking about heading into Russia 2018. Three years ago, Jesus was already turning heads – having featured for Palmeiras in the Brazilian top flight aged 18. The youngster would go on to impress at New Zealand 2015, helping his side to the final.

Since then, Jesus’ stock has only risen. His precocious performances caught the eye of Manchester City, who signed him in the summer of 2016 for arrival in January 2017, and he duly helped City break Premier League records on their way to the 2017/18 title. The forward has also become an integral part of the senior A Seleção side, scoring six goals in ten World Cup qualifying matches, after he scored three in six games on the way to Men’s Olympic Football Tournament gold with the hosts at Rio 2016.

Andre Silva: Portugal / AC Milan

DOB: 6/11/95 (age 22)

At the 2015 U-20 World Cup:
  • Scored four in five games

  • Provided two assists

  • Helped his side reach last eight

It will not be easy for Portugal to move on from the Cristiano Ronaldo era, but the Real Madrid man has identified his heir in the Seleccion das quinas side: Andre Silva. This heavy responsibility has been put on the forward’s broad shoulders, after his impressive performances so far for youth and senior sides. He impressed at New Zealand 2015 with four goals at a reasonably impressive rate of one every 114 minutes.

He went on to make his senior debut after the victorious UEFA EURO 2016 campaign and has scored 11 goals in 20 appearances – including nine in ten World Cup qualifying games. His move to Italian giants AC Milan in June 2017 has not been a resounding success, but he remains a key part of Fernando Santos’s plans for Russia 2018.

Rodrigo Bentancur: Uruguay / Juventus

DOB: 25/6/97 (age 20)

At the 2017 U-20 World Cup:
  • Made six appearances

  • Scored penalty in semi-final shootout

  • Finished fourth

It is safe to say that Rodrigo Bentancur’s trajectory since the Korea Republic 2017 has been upward. The Uruguayan youngster played a crucial role in La Celeste’s midfield at last year’s U-20 World Cup, helping the side to fourth. He had already agreed to sign for Italian giants Juventus the month prior to the finals, and formally joined them from Boca Juniors in July 2017.

Bentancur was often used from the bench by coach Massimiliano Allegri during another successful Serie A campaign for Juventus. He made his senior international debut in October 2017 off the bench against Venezuela in qualifying for Russia 2018 and has started every game for Los Charruas since.

WARSAW, POLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Rodrigo Bentancur from Uruguay controls the ball while Poland v Uruguay International Friendly soccer match at National Stadium on November 10, 2017 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images)

Edson Alvarez: Mexico / Club America

DOB: 24/10/97 (age 20)

At the 2017 U-20 World Cup:
  • Scored in opener versus Vanuatu

  • Helped keep clean sheets against Germany and Senegal

  • Reached quarter-finals

To say the U-20 World Cup was key in helping Edson Alvarez get senior international recognition would be a little far from the truth, as the Club America man actually made his senior debut for El Tri ten days before he made his first appearance for the U-20 side. However, Juan Carlos Osorio certainly took note of Alvarez’s performances at Korea Republic 2017 and has utilised the young defender since.

After helping Mexico to the last eight at the U-20 finals, Alvarez went on to feature prominently at the 2017 Gold Cup, and played twice during World Cup qualifying. He has since been named in successive Osorio squads for the friendlies directly after Mexico sealed their ticket to Russia 2018.