Two years ago in Uruguay, the likes of Ángel Correa, Giovanni Simeone, Sebastián Driussi and Emanuel Mammana led Argentina under-20s to the Sudamericano title. Two years on, with the Argentine Football Association in more than a mess than ever and youth football suffering as a result, Claudio Úbeda takes charge of the latest crop of youngsters. While this squad may not boast some of the outrageous talents of Argentina’s era of dominance during that late 90s and 00s, there are more than a few to keep an eye on.
Here are the 23 that will travel to Ecuador and kick off against Peru on January 19th.
1 – Ramiro Macagno
Atlético de Rafaela (18/03/1997)
After coming up through the youth ranks with Atlético de Rafaela, Ramiro Macagno has learned well from the likes of Guillermo Sara and Axel Werner. After injury to first choice goalkeeper Lucas Hoyos towards the end of the year, Macagno found himself starting for La Crema and is the only one of Argentina’s three keepers to gain first hand Primera experience.
12 – Facundo Cambeses
Facundo Cambeses has been first choice goalkeeper in a number of under-20 friendlies and so is presumed to be Claudio Úbeda’s number one (despite the AFA’s squad numbering). The 19-year-old is yet to make his senior Banfield debut but is highly regarded and has been on the bench for Julio César Falcioni’s side on a number of occasions, waiting for his opportunity.
23 – Franco Petroli
River Plate (11/06/1998)
Surprisingly Franco Petroli is the only River Plate youngster to make the 23-man squad but has been with the Buenos Aires giants since he was ten and was champion in the Octava División. The 18-year-old has been an Argentina international at under-15 and under-17 level and gained experience with the senior squad as part of the sparring ahead of the Copa América Centenario.
2 – Cristian Romero
A central defender of huge promise, Cristian Romero is one of the jewels in Belgrano’s academy and having made his senior debut this season against Independiente, local media claimed that Atlético Madrid were already tracking the 18-year-old. Claudio Úbeda has described Romero has a “key player” and called him up for his first under-20 appearances in November.
3 – Milton Valenzuela
Newell’s Old Boys (13/08/1998)
Milton Valenzuela is likely to start as Argentina’s first-choice left back after making his Newell’s debut almost a year ago. The 18-year-old academy product can operate on either flank and has superb technique and temperament but has found opportunities with La Lepra hard to comeby. In spite of this, Valenzuela could play an important role in Ecuador.
4 – Nahuel Molina
Boca Juniors (02/12/1997)
A modern attacking full-back, Nahuel Molina has been converted from a winger into an accomplished defender while with Boca Juniors’ academy and the results have seen the 19-year-old become a useful squad player for Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Rodolfo Arruabarrena before him. Having made his Boca debut almost a year ago after an injury to Gino Peruzzi, Molina’s lightening pace will be dangerous threat for Los Pibes. The Córdoba-born youngster was close to joining Barcelona’s Masía academy back in 2012.
6 – Lisandro Martínez
Newell’s Old Boys (18/01/1998)
Lisandro Martínez has progressed through the academy at Newell’s and last summer was incorporated into the first preseason with the senior squad. During 2016, the Copa Santa Fe provided opportunities to face rivals Rosario Central as both sides fielded second-string starting elevens. The 18-year-old was solid defensively, is good in the air but has the pace to shift to left back if needed.
13 – Juan Foyth
Yet to make his senior debut, the idea within Estudiantes is that Juan Foyth will be challenging the likes of Jonathan Schunke and Lisandro Desábato for a starting role in the not too distant future. Having arrived in La Plata as a centre-forward, Foyth’s height and physical presence has seen him converted to a central defender and may well start in Ecuador.
14 – Nicolás Zalazar
San Lorenzo (26/06/1997)
Nicolás Zalazar has been with San Lorenzo for over ten years and in October this year made his senior debut. The 19-year-old recovered from being stabbed in 2012 to impress in the youth divisions and force his way into Diego Aguirre’s plans.
Kevin Mac Allister – knee ligament injury has ruled the Argentinos Juniors defender out of the tournament. His replacement is….
17 – Tomás Belmonte
5 – Santiago Ascacibar
Perhaps the ‘star’ of Claudio Úbeda’s squad, Santiago Ascacibar has barely put a foot wrong since making his senior debut for Estudiantes and after racking up close to 50 appearances already, El Ruso will be the cornerstone of the under-20s starting eleven. A tough tackling, tactically astute defensive midfielder, Úbeda has praised Ascacibar as a ‘natural leader’ and will look to him to drive the side forward.
7 – Lucas Rodríguez
Lucas Rodríguez will travel to Ecuador as the member of the squad to have played the most matches at senior level having become something of a regular for Estudiantes since making his debut in July 2015. A versatile attacking midfielder, the 19-year-old is able to play out wide, as a number ten or even in attack, such is his eye for goal.
8 – Pedro Ojeda
Rosario Central (05/11/1997)
Pedro Ojeda was a central part of the under-20 side that finished runners-up to Spain in the 2016 COTIF but given his role as a natural number five, the Rosario Central youngster may have to settle to begin the Sudamericano as Ascacibar’s backup. Eduardo Coudet handed Ojeda his debut in October and the 18-year-old could be an important squad player.
10 – Ezequiel Barco
The youngest member of the squad and possibly the Sudamericano, Ezequiel Barco has been the breakthrough star of the Primera this season and a solitary ray of light for Independiente supporters. A wonderfully gifted midfielder, the 17-year-old drifts past defenders, has an eye for a pass but also covers plenty of ground to support the team. Barco already has a burgeoning reputation but the Sudamericano could really push him into the spotlight.
11 – Brian Mansilla
Racing Club (16/04/1997)
The loan to Quilmes in the first part of 2016 gave Brian Mansilla the valuable opportunity of regular Primera football and although chances back at Racing have been harder to comeby there is little doubting, the 19-year-old’s talent. Debuting for La Academia back in 2015, Mansilla has three goals in senior football and can play up front but with his pace and trickery is likely to play wide in an advanced midfield role.
15 – Franco Moyano
San Lorenzo (13/09/1997)
Yet to make his senior debut, Franco Moyano is part of a talented crop of youngsters at San Lorenzo, who have won a number of youth titles as they have progressed towards the first team. The 19-year-old was the central midfield partner of Pedro Ojeda when Argentina finished runners-up in last year’s L’Alcúdia tournament in Spain.
16 – Julián Chicco
Boca Juniors (13/01/1998)
Likely to start in Ecuador as Santiago Ascacibar’s central partner, Julián Chicco is a combative yet technically sound midfielder, who has previously trialled with Manchester United and caught the attention of Juventus. Having failed to land a deal at Old Trafford, Boca Juniors snapped up the Colón youngster and the 18-year-old has already made his full debut when Fernando Gago was absent through injury in April.
18 – Joaquín Pereyra
Rosario Central (01/12/1998)
A beneficiary of Eduardo Coudet’s rotation at Rosario Central over the past six months, Joaquín Pereyra has featured six times in the first team and now has another opportunity to impress with Argentina. A pacy, dynamic midfield player, Pereyra covers a lot of ground but is always looking to burst forward and join the attack.
19 – Matías Zaracho
Racing Club (10/03/1998)
Matías Zaracho is an extremely talented graduate from Racing’s famous academy and having made his debut under Ricardo Zielinski before the end of the year, the 18-year-old provides Claudio Úbeda with an exciting option in front of his likely double-five. Versatile enough to play as a number ten or in a wide position, expect to see more of Zaracho.
9 – Lautaro Martínez
Racing Club (22/08/1997)
The standout player for Argentina in last year’s L’Aldúdia tournament and already a reported big money target for Real Madrid, Lautaro Martínez has for sometime been one of the youngsters to keep an eye out for. Having made his debut in 2015 when he came on as a replacement for Diego Milito, the 19-year-old is now just behind Lisandro López and Gustavo Bou in the pecking order. A very mobile striker with rapid acceleration, Martínez is a smart finisher and will most likely be Los Pibes main source of goals in Ecuador.
20 – Tomás Conechny
San Lorenzo (30/03/1998)
Captain of the Argentina under-15s and under-17s, Tomás Conechny has been heralded as the next big thing for a number of years now. Conechny is the admirable blend of determination and technique and in addition to leading Los Pibes on the pitch, he was part of the San Lorenzo reserve side that won the league title last year. Diego Aguirre handed him his senior debut this season but with Martín Cauteruccio having been sold, Conechny could be set for a more important role at San Lorenzo.
21 – Marcelo Torres
A regular scorer for Rolando Schiavi’s reserves, Marcelo Torres signed his first professional contract with Boca Juniors last month after catching the hierarchy’s attention with a brace in the superclásico. A number nine comfortable with dropping deeper to get on the ball, Torres has tried to learn from Carlos Tevez.
22 – Ramón Mierez
Another of Tigre’s recent crop of excellent young players to emerge, Ramón Mierez made his debut for El Matador back in March 2016 and was rewarded with a first senior goal against Sarmiento a couple of months later. Still only a squad player at club level, Mierez will likely make do with a similar role in Ecuador.
Possible starting XI