Argentina begins a quest to win a record-extending seventh Under-20 World Cup when it plays England on the opening day Saturday.
The Argentines haven’t won the championship, or even reached the semifinals, in 10 years, and they face an England side which is on a run of 17 consecutive winless matches at the World Cup. England’s last win was 20 years ago.
England brings three players from Premier League champion Chelsea and five from Everton, but they are not considered a front-runner for the title.
Germany, France, Italy, and Portugal are regarded as the favorites from Europe, and Argentina and Uruguay are expected to lead the South American charge in the absence of five-time winner Brazil, which failed to qualify along with reigning champion Serbia.
Two of those potential winners meet on Sunday when Uruguay takes on Italy in Suwon, just south of the capital Seoul.
Rodrigo Amaral was the top scorer as Uruguay won the Under-19 South American championship. The striker is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in world soccer.
France won the European Under-19 title last year and is expected to ease into the last 16 from a group containing Honduras, New Zealand, and Vietnam.
The United States is at the tournament as confederation champion for the first time, and kicks off Group F against Ecuador, and then goes on to face 2015 semifinalist Senegal and Saudi Arabia.
Asia hopes rest on Japan and host South Korea. Both teams are excited about players with Barcelona experience.
Takefusa Kubo, only aged 15, spent four years playing for Barcelona’s youth team before signing for FC Tokyo in 2016.
Japan’s group, with Italy, Uruguay, and South Africa is tough. South Korea’s looks far from easy, too, with an opening game against Guinea followed by Argentina and England.
South Korea’s star is Lee Seung-woo, who is in the Barcelona Under-19s after six years at the club. Lee scored against Uruguay in a warm-up game a week ago.
“We want to go as far as we can, go all the way,” he said.
Sixteen of the 24 teams will progress to the second round, the top two from each of the six groups and the four best third-place finishers.
The final is on June 11 in Suwon.