U.S. Under-20s Set to Battle Chile, China, Ukraine at 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina
"Our team is extremely excited to finally learn what our next step is going to be, and we are extremely excited to have the opportunity to match up with three quality sides such as China, Chile and Ukraine," U.S. head coach Wolfgang Suhnholz said. "Now that we know the challenge in front of us - and these three teams will present a great challenge - we can begin preparing and looking forward to June."
The U.S. was drawn into Group C and the city of Mendoza, the westernmost of the six venues that will host matches. The matches will be played at Malvinas Argentinas, a 36,000-seat stadium that was built for the 1978 World Cup. Mendoza is a mountainous region that lies at the foot of the Andes Range, and should provide a home field advantage for Chile when the U.S. square off against Argentina's western neighbor on June 20.
The U.S. squad that takes the field in Argentina will be one of the most experienced teams that the U.S. has ever fielded at the Under-20 level. On the 18-player roster the U.S. used in the qualifying round, six U.S. players played professionally, eight were on the U.S. squad that finished fourth at the 1999 Under-17 World Championship and two were members of the U.S. Olympic team that advanced to the semifinals of the 2000 Summer Games.
The U.S. has only played China previously in a World Youth Championship, when the Americans opened the 1997 championship with a 1-0 win in Malaysia. When Chile and the U.S. square off, it will be a rematch of the 2000 Summer Olympics bronze medal match, where the U.S. Under-23 team lost 2-0 to dash the USA's chances of taking home the country's first-ever medal in men's soccer.
Chile has appeared in two previous World Youth Championships, finishing fourth in 1987 and 13th in 1995. Chile qualified for the Argentina 2001 by virtue of their fourth place finish at the 2001 CONMEBOL Championships in Ecuador. In the final round of the South American championships, Chile topped Paraguay and drew with Colombia and Argentina to secure just their third berth in a World Youth Championship.
Ukraine advanced to their country's first-ever World Youth Championship with a surprising run to the final of the UEFA U-18 Championship in 2000. Ukraine fell 1-0 to France in the championship game, but still advanced to Argentina. Ukraine topped Germany and Croatia, before drawing 0-0 with Netherlands in the final game of final round group play to win the group and advance to the final.
China will be looking to further the recent rebirth of Asian youth soccer and will be hoping to improve on Japan's second-place finish in 1999. In February Brazil needed an 80th minute strike to squeeze by China and win a four-nation tournament held in Hong Kong. China topped Argentina with a surprising 3-1 win to advance to the final. As many as six of the Chinese players will be delayed joining the U-20s in early May as they will be preparing for the Asian Champions Cup with their club side, Dalian Shide.
The U.S. will also be looking to break a string of bad luck in their recent World Youth Championships. In 1997, the U.S. advanced out of its group, only to meet Uruguay in the round of 16. The U.S. lost, and Uruguay advanced to the final and eventually took second place. Two years later, the U.S. fell to eventual tournament runner-up Japan in group play, and then advanced to the round of 16 where the Americans fell to eventual winner Spain.
The Under-20s will regroup for a short camp in the first two weeks of May, before flying to France to play in the prestigious Toulon Festival at the end of the month. In Toulon, the U.S. have been drawn into Group A with Italy, Colombia and the Netherlands. France, Japan, Portugal and Poland complete the eight-team tournament that is considered one of the top annual youth tournaments in the world.
%=macroPart|font/arialBlue3=%How They Got Here....
- China - grabbed on of the AFC's four spots in Argentina '01 by placing third in the AFC Qualifying Tournament. After winning their group, China fell 2-0 to Japan in the semis and rebounded to top Iraq in penalty kicks for a third-place finish.
- Ukraine - grabbed one of UEFA's six spots in Argentina by finishing second at the 16th European U-18 Championship in Germany last year. After topping Germany and Croatia, and drawing 0-0 with Netherlands, Ukraine advanced to the tournament final. In the final Ukraine fell to France, 1-0.
- Chile - grabbed one of CONMEBOL's four spots (plus host Argentina) with a third-place finish at the CONMEBOL Championship earlier this year.
In the final round of the South American championships where they topped Paraguay and drew with Colombia and Argentina. In the preliminary round of play, Chile fell to Uruguay and Argentina, before bouncing back to top Colombia and Bolivia and advance to the final round.
- GROUP A: Argentina, Finland, Egypt, Jamaica
- GROUP B: Brazil, Germany, Iraq, Canada
- GROUP C: United States, China PR, Chile, Ukraine
- GROUP D: Angola, Czech Republic, Japan, Australia
- GROUP E: Ecuador, Ethiopia, Netherlands, Costa Rica
- GROUP F: Ghana, Paraguay, Iran, France