Since Diego Maradona led Argentina to the title back in 1979 no country has lifted the under-20 World Cup on more occasions than the Albiceleste. José Pékerman’s golden era that produced the likes of Lionel Messi, Juan Román Requelme and Sergio Agüero has long since dried up and Fernando Batista takes a group to Poland that are far from considered favourites.
However, there remains some terrific individual talent within the squad and just as Argentina’s success at the South American Championships came as something of a surprise, the youngsters will be aiming to prove their critics wrong.
Argentina begin their World Cup campaign on Saturday evening against South Africa in Tychy before remaining Group F fixtures against Portugal (Tuesday 28th May) and South Korea (Friday 31st May).
Fernando Batista made a few changes to the squad that ended as runners-up in the South American Championships in February and with the likes of Thiago Almada and Leonardo Balerdi left out, it is fair to say that Argentina’s World Cup squad raised some eyebrows.
1. Agustín Roffo (Boca Juniors)
Expected to start the tournament as Fernando Batista’s number one goalkeeper, Agustín Roffo has been in the Argentina youth system for a number of years and at 17 was included in the under-20 squad for the previous World Cup in South Korea. The Santafesino has been at Boca since 2012 and after rising through the ranks is now on the fringes of the first team squad.
12. Jerónimo Pourtau (Estudiantes)
The hero from Argentina’s triumphant run to the title in L’Alcúdia last year, Jerónimo Pourtau keeps his place in the squad. The Estudiantes youngster’s penalty stops in the semi final against Uruguay sent the Albiceleste through to the final and the commanding figure proved himself to be an excellent prospect.
21. Joaquín Blázquez (Valencia – loan from Talleres)
Turning eighteen earlier this year, Joaquín Blázquez is the youngest of the three goalkeepers but is no less highly regarded. For that reason Spanish club Valencia took the Talleres academy product on loan in January with an option to buy 50% of the Argentinian´s rights for €3 million.
2. Nehuen Pérez (Atlético Madrid)
Atlético Madrid have proven to be pretty good judges of defenders over the past few years and Diego Simeone’s La Liga challengers moved quickly to bring in Nehuen Pérez from Argentinos Juniors last year. The 18-year-old barely featured for Los Bichos first team before the move but is considered one of Argentina’s brightest defensive prospects and will form the cornerstone of the back four in Poland.
3. Francisco Ortega (Vélez Sarsfield)
There have been no shortage of talented young players breaking through into the Vélez Sarsfield first team and while Francisco Ortega remains on the fringes since making his debut in 2017, the potential is still clear. Quick and energetic, the 20-year-old is a full-back that needs no second invitation to get forward and join the attack.
4. Facundo Mura (Estudiantes)
Argentina’s starting right-back in L’Alcúdia and in Chile for the South American Championships, Facundo Mura has greater competition in the position now but has certainly done enough to keep his spot. Solid defensively and able to provide quality deliveries into the box, the Estudiantes defender ended the Superliga season playing regularly first team football and his experience could prove useful.
6. Maximiliano Centurión (Argentinos Juniors)
One of the surprise inclusions, Maximiliano Centurión came into the World Cup squad at the expense of Leonardo Balerdi and with that will come some expectation. The big, powerful centre back plies his trade for Argentinos Juniors having left Vélez Sarsfield’s academy in 2018 and both clubs certainly know a thing or two about developing young talent.
13. Marcelo Weigandt (Boca Juniors)
An intense competitor Marcelo Weigandt has been one of the leaders in Boca Juniors’ academy sides since joining the club in 2007 and his performances for Rolando Schiavi’s reserves have led to the 19-year-old breaking into the first team this year. Full of running and with a never-say-die attitude, Weigandt has represented Argentina at every level and will be competing with Facundo Mura for a starting role.
14. Facundo Medina (Talleres)
A product of River Plate’s academy, Facundo Medina joined Talleres in January 2018 and has been a regular in the first team this season. Having trained with Lionel Messi and co. ahead of the 2018 World Cup, the left-back was included in the under-20 squad that finished as runners-up at the South American Championships and in turn booked their spot in Poland.
5. Santiago Sosa (River Plate)
Despite only a handful of first team appearances for River Plate, Santiago Sosa has already been subject to transfer speculation in recent weeks with Everton said to test Los Millonarios’ resolve. It is likely that the 20-year-old’s displays at the South American Championships alerted many scouts after Sosa was named in the Team of the tournament for his ball winning ability in front of the back four.
8. Agustín Almendra (Boca Juniors)
A late injury ruled Agustín Almendra out of the South American Championships earlier this year and Argentina’s midfield missed the Boca Juniors youngster’s ability to link defence and attack. Napoli and a host of other big European clubs are already circling around the 19-year-old since Almendra has forced his way into Boca’s first team plans and while the early career comparisons to Juan Román Riquelme have proved well wide of the mark, a more modern all-round midfielder has emerged.
10. Gonzalo Maroni (Talleres – loan from Boca)
Only injury to Ezequiel Barco in January saw Gonzalo Maroni called up for the South American Championships but the Talleres playmaker seized his opportunity with two vital goals in Chile. Emerging from Instituto’s academy like his idol Paulo Dybala, Boca snapped up Maroni in 2015 and while the talented midfielder has been sent out on loan, Maroni is due back from Córdoba next month and will be aiming to push his way into Gustavo Alfaro’s plans.
11. Aníbal Moreno (Newell’s Old Boys)
A stunning strike against Uruguay in the South American Championships thrust Aníbal Moreno into the spotlight but it is not the 19-year-old’s goal scoring exploits which will be attracting scouts. Moreno, who has since broken into the Newell’s Old Boys first team, is a midfield all-rounder capable of winning the ball and getting forward to contribute to the attack with his fine range of passing. River Plate are already sniffing around the Newell’s academy product but a strong World Cup could see interest intensify.
15. Fausto Vera (Argentinos Juniors)
Now seeing regular first team minutes Fausto Vera is the latest Argentinos Juniors academy graduate to make his mark at the famous Buenos Aires club. A tenacious ball winner and efficient passer of the ball, the 19-year-old was part of the South American Championship squad and provides a some security in midfield to allow those more offensive players to express themselves.
16. Agustín Urzi (Banfield)
One of the breakthrough stars of 2019, Agustín Urzi became a regular in the Banfield starting eleven under Hernán Crespo and has not looked back. Quick, skilful and able to play on either wing, Urzi has caused Superliga defences problems and it’s no surprise that El Taladro have had to fend off reported interest from Boca Juniors and River Plate already.
18. Cristian Ferreira (River Plate)
Cristian Ferreira’s tremendous free-kick in the warm-up victory over Honduras last week was not the first time that the River Plate midfielder has displayed his set-piece technique. The 19-year-old has established himself as an important squad player for Marcelo Gallardo and a similar free-kick earned River a valuable draw in Lima in this year’s Copa Libertadores. Skillful, a good passer and a real threat from distance Ferreira has already attracted plenty of interest from Europe.
20. Ezequiel Barco (Atlanta United)
It’s seems like an age ago that Ezequiel Barco burst into the Independiente first team and lit up the Primera División before leading El Rojo to the Copa Sudamericana. Momentum may have slowed due to a difficult first year adapting to life with Atlanta United but the 20-year-old was finally displaying his true potential for the Five Stripes before leaving for the World Cup. Argentina’s youth sides have seen enough of Barco for one reason or another but as one of the most experienced figures in Poland, the fleet-footed playmaker should be one of the stars.
7. Julián Álvarez (River Plate)
Off the bench in the biggest game in River Plate’s history, Julián Álvarez has already experienced the most important Superclásico ever and subsequently lifted the Copa Libertadores so little should faze the 19-year-old. A prodigious talent at a young age, Real Madrid had wanted to sign Álvarez at the age of thirteen but their inability to do so has been River’s blessing and while the forward is yet to become a first team regular, a big future is expected. Proving himself to be more than just a penalty box goal scorer, Argentina’s lack of natural strikers should see Álvarez play a vital role.
9. Adolfo Gaich (San Lorenzo)
At the South American Championships, Adolfo Gaich had the competition of Maxi Romero and Facundo Colidio to contend with but his hat-trick against Venezuela in the final phase clearly caught the eye and now it is the San Lorenzo number nine who provides Argentina with their sole centre forward option. Big, strong and a handful for centre backs, Gaich will be a focal point for the attack and an aerial threat to aim for and play off.
17. Tomás Chancalay (Colón)
An important first team figure at Colón for quite some time now, El Sabalero didn’t allow Tomás Chancalay to represent Argentina under-20s at the COTIF in L’Alcúdia and it looked as though it could impact on the 20-year-old’s selection. There was no place at the South American Championships for Chancalay but his return for the World Cup is a useful addition to the squad given his ability to play across the attack.