Korea Republic, this time as the host, will take part in this tournament marking its fourteenth appearance after four years of absence. The side has gone to great lengths to strengthen itself since Korea Republic was selected to host. The team was unexpectedly eliminated in the group stage of the AFC U-19 Championship 2016 last October, leading the Head Coach, AN Ik-Soo to resign. Stepping in AN’s place is SHIN Tae-Yong, the coach of the Korea Republic National team who achieved second place in the AFC Asian Cup 2015 and took his team to quarterfinals in the Rio Olympics.
There were some anxious speculations around the newly appointed Head Coach during his first six months, however after a series of friendly matches including a tour to Portugal, SHIN and his team were able to generated sense of trust and cooperation among the team.
Furthermore, midfielder PAIK Seung-Ho and forward LEE Seung-Woo, known as the “Barcelona Duo”, will become the guiding force of the team. The two were selected to play in youth team of FC Barcelona, Spain, where they polished their skills. They are the rising stars of the team and given that this team is comprised predominantly from university students, this “Duo” is expected to attract the attention from the world.
Group A, which is made up of Guinea, Argentina, and England, is sure to eliminate any at home advantage the host team may have had – with some referring to Group A as the “Group of Death”.
Japan, who is the winner of the AFC U-19 Championship 2016, is making is come back to the FIFA U-20 World Cup after ten years. “When we first formed this team in 2015, we selected 83 players onto the team and we have then narrowed the members into 21,” explained head coach UCHIYAMA Atsushi. Fixing the basic format at 4-4-2 UCHIYAMA tested a variety of formation with the team. The goal for the team, including players from the “Tokyo 2020” generation, is to advance to the knockout stage and to play as many matches as possible at the top international level in this age group. “As we are participating, might as well aim for the top” says the Head Coach passionately.
SAKAI Daisuke, the Captain and OGAWA Koki, the ace striker, are the stable foundation of this team. With the addition of talents such as HARA Teruki, latterly establishing his position in the team and KUBO Takefusa, the “Age-Skipping” rising star joining the team after AFC U-19 Championship, the team adopts a collective system, recovering the ball through compact pressuring and utilizing possession and counterattack depending on the situation.
The key player for attacking is DOAN Ritsu, who received the MVP of the AFC U-19 Championship 2016. He has shown steady improvement, scoring in three consecutive matches for Gamba Osaka. He may be one of the players with best performance during this tournament.
The team is a showcase of talents with SAKAI, the defensive midfielder, controlling the “heart” of the team, supported by HARA, with power and ICHIMARU Mizuki, skilled with vertical middle passes and tall TOMIYASU Takehiro playing the centre back.
The strategy of the Head Coach will be tested in this tournament.
Manager UCHIYAMA has described South Africa as possessing “a range of unpredictability and forcefulness”, commented on Uruguay as “strong in defense and quick in offense”, whilst finding in Italy “adept footballers”, all of whom will make it difficult for the Japan side to produce the results it so badly desires unless it can strike a balance between its skill as a team whilst honing its footballers’ individual talent.