Befitting its reputation as a conveyor belt of footballing talent, South America has won the Under-20 World Cup more times than any other continent. And it has been handed an advantage in the quest to win the 2023 version, which runs from May 20-June 11. Originally scheduled for Indonesia, political problems forced a change, and Argentina stepped in as a late substitute. The new hosts have won the competition six times, more than anyone else, and now have a chance to win a seventh -- in a tournament for which they failed to qualify.
Coach Javier Mascherano's side were unable to claim one of the four slots open to South America, but opportunity has knocked for them. Four years ago something similar happened to Brazil at Under-17 level. They missed out on a place, only to gain a reprieve when Peru were stripped of hosting rights. In stepped Brazil, who ended up winning the competition.
Argentina hope this serves as an omen, and they will certainly not lack support. In the provincial cities where this tournament is being played, they will be treated as proxies for Lionel Messi and his men, in a country keen to keep alive the spirit of celebration that has lifted morale in the country ever since the senior World Cup triumph in Qatar. And with a group comprised of Uzbekistan. Guatemala and New Zealand, Argentina should be off to a relatively comfortable start.
Gino Infantino | Midfielder | Rosario Central
Now in his third year as a first teamer with his club, Infantino was one of Argentina's rare successes in a disastrous qualification campaign. The left footed central midfielder would seem to have strength on the ball and the strength of character, lung power and the capacity to break into the penalty area.
Federico Redondo | Midfielder | Argentinos Juniors
Born in Spain to Fernando Redondo, who once graced the shirt of Real Madrid. The Redondo name is almost a guarantee of midfield elegance, and under the watchful eye of club coach Gabriel Milito Federico is developing into a central midfielder with a classy range of passing.
Five times winners of the world title at this level, Brazil's recent Under-20 record has been shockingly poor, something coach Ramon Menezes is determined to put right. His team were continental champions at the start of the year, and several of them were promoted to the senior squad for the March FIFA dates.
Andrey Santos | Midfielder | Vasco da Gama
Midfield powerhouse who was one of the stars of qualification, winning the ball, driving forward, setting up the play and continually popping up with vital goals. Was transferred to Chelsea at the start of the year but denied a work permit. Subsequent displays in Brazil's first division, plus taking part in this tournament, should get him over the line and on his way to Stamford Bridge for next season.
Marcos Leandro | Forward | Santos
Not featured at the qualifiers, but now has the huge task of stepping into the boots of burly centre forward Vitor Roque, who was not released for this tournament. Something of a child prodigy, Marcos Leonardo is a stocky striker in the Romario mould, capable of conjuring tricks in reduced spaces.
After missing out on Qatar, Colombia are looking to youth to get them back on track. Qualified comfortably for this tournament, but how much of that was down to home advantage?
Oscar Cortes | Forward | Millonarios
Has become so important for his club this year that they were reluctant to release him, and the Colombian FA had to force their hand. Dynamic right footed winger able to operate on either flank, running at defenders and setting up chances.
Tomas Angel | Forward | Atletico Nacional
Born in Birmingham while illustrious father Juan Pablo Angel was with Aston Villa. Left-footed striker who has yet to fill out physically, but whose movement and technique are impressive. Not selected for the qualification tournament, but has forced his way in through strong club form and the absence of Jhon Duran, Villa's latest Colombian.
In 2019, Ecuador were South American champions and came third in the World Cup. The 2023 side were unimpressive in qualification, and new coach Miguel Bravo has made plenty of changes. Youth development work in the country has been excellent, of late, and they have a few players worth watching.
Joel Ordonez | Defender | Club Brugge
Tough, quick and classy centre-back who transferred to the Belgian side last year after just a handful of games for the extraordinary Independiente del Valle club. Not released for the qualification tournament, but rated so highly that he was part of the senior Ecuador squad in March.
Kendry Paez | Midfielder | Independiente del Valle
Only just 16 and has already filled many a scouts' notebook. Scored his first senior goal at the age of 15, was on cracking form recently in the South American Under-17s and, it would seem, is set to join Chelsea when he turns 18. Rangy support striker with a magical skill set and a wonderful left foot. Will be fascinating to see how he copes with promotion to the Under-20s, because one of the big questions hanging over him is how he will cope physically.
La Celeste have come close a couple of times, but have never won the Under-20 World Cup. They have been extremely successful at using the level to identify and develop players for the long term of the senior national side. Indeed, Uruguay's return to football's top table has a great deal to do with the excellence of their work at this level. And on the evidence of the qualification campaign, the 2023 vintage are worthy heirs to the tradition. Their squad contains plenty of interesting talent.
Fabricio Diaz | Midfielder | Liverpool Montevideo
In his fourth season in the first team of the Uruguayan version of Liverpool, and with well over 100 games behind him, the central midfielder is wise beyond his years, with leadership potential and an accomplished range of passing, including beautifully struck free kicks. Will certainly be on his way in the next transfer window.
Luciano Rodriguez | Forward | Liverpool Montevideo
The break out star of the qualifying competition. Progress stalled by injury, he spent last year in Uruguay's second division before joining Montevideo's Liverpool -- where he will surely not be playing his football for long. Strong, two-footed, and capable of playing all across the attacking line, he lit up the qualifiers and his displays in Argentina will be closely watched.