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Picking a FIFA U20 World Cup Team of the Group Stages

Sam TigheFeatured Columnist IVJuly 26, 2016

Picking a FIFA U20 World Cup Team of the Group Stages

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    The FIFA U20 World Cup has reached the knockouts, so we look back at an exciting Group Stage to pick out the best performers.

    In the 4-2-3-1 formation that has been used so commonly in the tournament, we pick the best players in each position to slot into our XI.

    Who joins Colombia's Juan Quintero in the formation? Read on and see if you agree with our selections.

GK: Cody Cropper, USA

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    The U.S. team entered the tournament as major underdogs, taking on Spain, France and Ghana in a seriously tough draw.

    While the side were run over at times by sheer quality (la Roja), they remained competitive and stubborn for long periods and earned a credible 1-1 draw with France.

    Few goalkeepers have covered themselves in glory in Turkey so far—inexperienced players between the sticks understandably make mistakes—but Cody Cropper has shown great instincts, reactions and reflexes.

    A good catch for the Southampton academy.

RB: Javi Manquillo, Spain

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    Spain's attacking delights have stolen the show so far, but in a similar fashion to the more senior sides, their full-backs are key to the system.

    Javi Manquillo, steaming forward from right-back in full flight, is some sight. He's creative, he's fast, he's neat and he works very, very hard up and down the line.

    Manquillo beats out stiff competition for this spot in our team, with Helibelton Palacios (Colombia), Dimitri Foulquier (France) and Felipe Campos (Chile) all contenders.

CB: Jose Gimenez, Uruguay

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    Uruguay stuttered early on in the tournament, but bounced back with a vengeance against Uzbekistan and New Zealand.

    Jose Gimenez leads the defensive line from left centre-back and covers for the marauding, eager left-back Gianni Rodriguez extremely well, making sure his side have appropriate numbers back to defend counters.

    La Celeste pass out from the back extremely well and every player is comfortable on the ball—Gimenez is one of many following the new blueprint for modern centre-backs.

CB: Derik, Spain

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    Spain conceded just two goals—both late, consolatory strikes—in the Group Stages, and that wasn't just down to monopolising possession of the ball.

    Centre-back Derik is a big part of this, and his athletic, powerful frame allows him to cover plenty of ground in a high defensive line.

    Positionally he is very good and appears a conscientious, aware defender who can spot and snuff out danger early.

LB: Lucas Digne, France

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    News broke before the tournament, via ESPNFC [1], that Paris Saint-Germain were checking in on Lille left-back Lucas Digne.

    That brought several million more eyes down upon his every move in this tournament, and he's largely carried France through to the knockout stages on the back of some fantastic showings.

    His marauding runs are akin to those of Dani Alves [2], pushing his side forward and pinning his opposing number deep into his own half.

    Defensively he is capable, but it's in the final third where he really comes to life.

     

    [1] http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1473500/digne-flattered-psg-link?cc=5739

    [2] http://squawka.com/news/2013/06/25/meet-the-france-u-20-star-who-plays-like-dani-alves/2013062511705

CM: Ramy Rabia, Egypt

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    Despite playing some fantastic, organised and exciting football, Egypt were knocked out after losing their first two games in Group E.

    It's not what they deserved, but they couldn't take their chances. After dominating Chile in the opener, they fell 2-1 after spurning chance after chance.

    The formation started as a 4-2-3-1 but changed quickly on the attack. Ramy Rabia, the captain and holding midfielder, oversaw all systematic switches superbly and truly lead his team.

    Dropping into the defensive line, stepping out to intercept or keep the ball on the floor, Rabia showed immense skill in every area.

CM: Oliver Torres, Spain

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    One of the unheralded pre-tournament Spaniards who has really blossomed is Oliver Torres, an 18-year-old Atletico Madrid midfielder.

    Physically superior he is not, but what a little genius he is with the ball at his feet. Starting from a deeper position in Spain's 4-3-3(ish) shape, he can dictate, command and spray the ball around with ease.

    He's been integral to finding wide forwards Gerard Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez on their marauding runs and is heavily involved in the possession game.

    He's definitely won himself a little fanbase.

RW: Bruma, Portugal

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    Portugal's progression to the knockout stages of the FIFA U20 World Cup can be put almost solely down to one man: Bruma.

    The Sporting forward, who has been compared to Cristiano Ronaldo already despite being just 18 years of age [1], has scored an astonishing five goals to bail out a lackluster defensive line.

    He scores from anywhere, on either foot, and all you need to do as a midfielder is feed him the ball. Machine.

     

    [1] http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1615854-scouting-bruma-next-ronaldo-targeted-by-manchester-united-city-and-chelsea

AMC: Juan Quintero, Colombia

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    Juan Quintero is one of a select few to enter the tournament on the back of a truly excellent season in a European top flight.

    The former Pescara entertainer was slow to get going and it seemed too heavy a burden had been placed on him. But he sprang into life against hosts Turkey, scoring a wonderful, curling strike.

    He ran the game against El Salvador and capped it off with a last minute goal. He's shouldered the responsibility of creating and feeding los Cafeteros' strong, pacey attacking outlets.

LW: Jese Rodriguez, Spain

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    Spain might score some impressive goals, but Jese Rodriguez never fails to make his finishes look incredibly simple.

    He times his runs to perfection, arriving late in the penalty area to tap home at the far post or slide in between defenders. His dizzy runs are tough to track, while his movement makes him appear head and shoulders above many at this level.

    Playing as a wide forward, he's netted four times already.

CF: Marko Livaja, Croatia

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    In a tournament where midfielders and full-backs have widely impressed, the striking options appear a little dry.

    Jhon Cordoba is a good player, but his skills in linkup play are not replicated in the penalty area. Many others have performed inconsistently, but Marko Livaja of Croatia has really settled into the competition.

    Playing as a forward in a free-flowing system under Dinko Jelicic, Livaja has the liberty to drop in and out of the forward line, confusing defenders who aren't used to that type of movement at this level.

    He's looked bright off the ball and sharp on it, while he bagged a well-deserved goal against Uzbekistan.

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