The Kids are Alright: 2007 U-20 World Cup Revisited

In 2007, football fans in Canada got to witness some of the rising stars of world football at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.  Lionel Messi’s absence allowed teammates like Sergio Agüero, Mauro Zarate and Angel Di Maria to shine, and Argentina duly won the final 2-1 over the Czech Republic in Toronto.  A local soccer magazine asked me to compile a tournament Best XI, and in the absence of an official all-star team, my list stands as one of the few of its kind – although I understand Gazetta dello Sport did one and would love to see it if anyone can find it.

Revisiting this list for the second time, many of the stars from Canada 2007 are shining brightly – while others have stagnated and in some cases regressed.  Here’s  a look the current fortunes of that Best XI:

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GK: Christopher Toselli (Chile/Universidad Católica)

2010 World Cup squad? Yes

2011 Copa America squad? No

Verdict: Steady if unspectacular progress, Toselli was Chile’s third-choice goalkeeper at the last World Cup and should be pushing for the number 1 gloves soon.

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Gerard PiquéCB: Gerard Piqué (Spain/then: Manchester United, now: FC Barcelona) 

World Cup 2010 squad? YesEuro 2012 squad? Yes

Verdict: One of the best defenders in the world already in 2012.  I can’t take credit for any clairvoyance here as Piqué had already captained Spain’s U-19 side to the European title a year earlier.

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CB: Sebastian Prödl (Austria/then: Sturm Graz, now: Werder Bremen)

Euro 2008 squad? Yes

Verdict: Slowly forcing his way into the Werder first team and should be a lynchpin in Austria’ s defence for the coming decade.  Prödl won the penalty for the co-host’s only goal at Euro 2008.

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LB: Antunes (Portugal/then: Paços Ferreira, now:  Paços Ferreira)

World Cup 2010 squad? No

Euro 2012 squad? No

Verdict: Looking back, I should’ve picked Fábio Coentrão, who had played left wing for much of the tournament.  Antunes was a highly rated fullback who subsequently signed for AS Roma, but after a series of loans he’s back at Portuguese side Paços Ferreira.

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RB: Danny Szetela (USA/then: Columbus Crew, now: free agent)

World Cup 2010 squad? No

Gold Cup 2011 squad? No

Verdict: Szetela suffered from going to Europe too early in his career and is now struggling to find a club despite his raw talent.  He played in the 2008 Olympics and has passed through Racing Santander, Brescia and DC United.  The versatile midfielder was last in the news in February 2011 when he was arrested with his brothers for a bar-room brawl in his native Jersey.

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CM: David Edgar (Canada/ then: Newcastle United, now: Burnley)

Verdict: The Kitchener, Ontario native was famous for scoring a long-range goal against Manchester United in his Newcastle days.  Edgar’s versatility means that he can fill a variety of defensive roles for Canada’s senior team and Championship side Burnley.

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CM: Bruno Gama (Portugal/then: FC Porto, now: Deportivo la Coruña)

World Cup 2010 squad? No

Euro 2012 squad? No

Verdict: Was supposed to be the next Luis Figo, but a long-term injury sustained during the 2007 tournament kept Gama from making his senior debut for Portugal.  Last time I checked in on the midfielder he was plying his trade at Rio Ave, but current club Deportivo is a much bigger stage for Gama to fulfill his potential.

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Giovani dos SantosLM: Giovani dos Santos (Mexico/then: FC Barcelona, now: RCD Mallorca)

World Cup 2010 squad? Yes

Verdict: Barcelona surprised observers when they sold dos Santos to Tottenham Hotspur after scoring a hat trick on the final day of the 2007-2008 season.  After a loan spell with Ipswich Town, dos Santos’ World Cup performances in 2010 showed the Mexican’s talent and he joined Spanish club Mallorca on deadline day this past summer.

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RM: Maximiliano Moralez (Argentina/then: Racing, now: Atalanta)

World Cup 2010 squad? No

Verdict: Moralez has put a stop-start chapter at FC Moscow behind him and is excelling at Serie A side Atalanta.

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ST: Dawid Janczyk (Poland/then: Legia Warsaw, now: free agent)

World Cup 2010 squad? No

Verdict: Who?

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ST: Sergio Agüero (Argentina/then: Atlético Madrid, now: Manchester City)

World Cup 2010 squad? Yes

Verdict: Just over a year ago, Agüero was still at Atléti and still one of the world’s best up-and-coming talents.  Flash forward and his talents were in full evidence last season as part of Man City’s title triumph, and Agüero is expected to form a deadly partnership with Lionel Messi for Argentina in the coming decade.

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Substitutes:GK: Sergio Romero (Argentina) (World Cup 2010 squad? Yes, starter)

CB: Hans Martínez (Chile) (World Cup 2010 squad? No)

LM: Freddy Adu (USA) (World Cup 2010 squad? No)

RM: Luboš Kalouda (Czech Republic) (Euro 2012 squad? No)

ST: Rubin Okotie (Austria) (Euro 2008 squad? No)

ST: Adrián López (Spain) (Euro 2012 squad? No)

ST: Alexandre Pato (Brazil) (World Cup 2010 squad? Bizarrely, no)

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Other notable mentions: Ángel di María, Alexis Sánchez, Mauricio Isla, Arturo Vidal, Shinji Kagawa, Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, Javi García, Juan Mata, Javier Hernández, Carlos Vela, Arturo Ledesma, Fábio Coentrão, Rui Patrício, David Luiz, Wojciech Szczęsny.

Verdict:  A lot of my starting XI and substitutes have since lived up to their tournament billing, but picks like Antunes and Bruno Gama show that world class potential isn’t always a sure thing.  Luboš Kalouda in particular was supposed to be the next Pavel Nedvěd, while others like Adrián López and Pato have been victims of overwhelming competition at the national level.

Have you seen any of the forgotten players from the 2007 U-20 World Cup in action lately?  Please comment using the form below.

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About canadianfootball

Student of the game. @scott_ferguson

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