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Stars of the 2023 Under 20s World Cup


Stars of the 2023 Under 20s FIFA World Cup

The 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina concluded at the start of the week with two-time World Cup winners Uruguay winning their first U-20 title, defeating Italy 1-0 thanks to an 86th-minute Luciano Rodriguez header.

This tournament is always an intriguing watch, as it provides a platform for young talent from around the globe to showcase their ability. Therefore, this article will look at those who impressed the most.

5. Anan Khalaili – Israel

Despite large footballing nations all competing at the U-20 World Cup, it is the underdogs that always seem to progress to the latter stages. This year it was Israel's turn, beating Brazil on their way to the semi-final before losing to the eventual champions 1-0. However, they recovered from their loss and finished in third place thanks to a 3-1 victory over South Korea in the third-place play-off.

Anan Khalaili is an 18-year-old forward who starred for Israel in the knockout stages albeit he endured a rather poor group stage. The Maccabi Haifa U19 player only started the first group stage game against Colombia which ended in a 2-1 defeat. Khalaili then only made a fourteen-minute sub appearance in the second game, and he didn’t feature at all in the 2-1 win against Japan which ultimately secured his nation a spot in the knockouts.

Yet once the knockouts began, the 6ft forward stepped up, scoring three goals and registering an assist in four games. Khalaili featured on the right, as well as up front and it is obvious that he is a well-rounded forward who can act as a poacher whilst still creating for others. He has the perfect balance of technique and athleticism, which is quite rare at this stage in a footballer’s career. Anan Khalaili is certainly an exciting, versatile forward who has all the attributes to succeed.

4. Seung Won Lee – South Korea

After South Korean heartbreak in the final at the previous U-20 world cup, they set their sights on claiming the title they so nearly won four years ago. However, they unfortunately fell short at the semi-finals and despite it being another impressive run for the nation, they will be leaving Argentina in disappointment.

Yet the captain of the side, Seung Won Lee, should be proud of his performances during the tournament. The versatile midfielder featured in a double pivot and the number ten role, excelling in both positions.

The 20-year-old can provide defensive cover whilst bringing creativity and a goalscoring threat, which makes him extremely valuable to his side. South Korea’s first game of the tournament saw them face France and Won Lee arguably put in the best performance of the entire World Cup. To sum up his performance, the midfielder made nine tackles, scored and assisted, helping his nation to a 2-1 shock victory. The Gangwon FC man also registered a goal contribution in all but one game and picked up the most assists at the tournament, which earned him the Bronze Ball award.

3. Alan Matturro - Uruguay

The 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup Silver Ball winner, Alan Matturro, performed to an extremely high standard like most of the Uruguay squad this summer. The Left back from Genoa stands at 6ft2 and often used his physicality at both ends of the field, yet he is still technically sound for someone of his stature.

Uruguay’s biggest strength throughout the tournament was their ability to defend as a unit, with keeping a clean sheet seen as a priority. Their defensive resilience set the foundations for success and Marcelo Broli’s side didn’t concede in six of their seven games, including every knockout tie. Matturro played a significant role in that achievement, but he also continuously supplied his attacking teammates and provided a threat around the opposition's box.

The 18-year-old ended the tournament with a goal and assist to his name, and he will be hopeful of using his impressive performances at the tournament as momentum to break into the Genoa starting XI next season.

2. Fabricio Diaz – Uruguay

The second Uruguayan to make this list is Fabricio Diaz, who captained his nation to triumph. The composed midfielder showed his class and quality throughout, and it was obvious that he had first-team experience at his club, Liverpool UY.

The most appropriate way to describe the 20-year-old is to compare him to Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez, in terms of his ball-playing ability yet willingness to get involved with the physical side of the beautiful game. Diaz is calm in possession but also shows bravery to receive the ball in any scenario.

The number five was pivotal to Uruguay’s success, and he formed an effective partnership with Damian Garcia in the middle of the park. Diaz also had by far the highest number of key passes per ninety minutes, which is a suitable metric to showcase chance creation. A deep-lying playmaker with leadership qualities makes Diaz an extremely exciting prospect with huge potential, he is certainly a player to keep an eye on.

1. Cesare Casadei – Italy

Italy stumbled at the final hurdle on Monday and unfortunately, they never got out of first gear, unlike their earlier tournament performances. However, Chelsea prospect Casadei rightfully won the Golden Ball trophy after having a nearly flawless tournament. The 20-year-old midfielder looked a class above and his experience of playing in the Championship on loan for Reading was noticeable.

Casadei dominated on the road to the final, registering an assist and scoring seven goals which made him finish as top goal scorer. Although he is brilliant with the ball at his feet, it was his aerial threat which made him stand out as three of his seven goals were headers.

Casadei was by far Italy’s biggest threat and almost everything positive in the attacking phase went through the number eight. He also frequently Arrived late into the box and shot from range in Frank Lampard-esque fashion, which made him difficult to defend due to his unpredictability. Another attribute that Casadei displayed was his leadership, as he took on a shared captaincy role with Samuel Giovane. Chelsea have a quality player on their hands and if he is managed correctly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him feature in the Premier League to some capacity within a couple of seasons.