FOX Sports Asia football editor Gabriel Tan picks eight players to look out for at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup which kicks off on Thursday in Poland.
1) TIMOTHY WEAH (UNITED STATES)
One player who should not need an introduction is Timothy Weah, son of the legendary AC Milan striker and current Liberia president George Weah.
While his father is widely regarded as one of Africa’s greatest-ever players, the younger Weah actually plays for United States having been born in New York and has already scored his first goal for the senior national team.
The 19-year-old has come through the ranks of French giants Paris Saint-Germain but joined Celtic on loan at the start of this year and had a respectable haul of four goals in 17 appearances.
2) TURKI AL-AMMAR (SAUDI ARABIA)
Saudi Arabia qualified for this year’s U-20 World Cup by virtue of winning last year’s AFC U-19 Championship, and it was no surprise that playmaker Turki Al-Ammar was named as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
While small in stature, the Al Shabab man has skill and vision in abundance and is promising to be Green Falcons’ playmaker-in-chief over the next decade.
Although not an out-and-out striker, Al-Ammar still finished as Saudi Arabia’s top scorer at the AFC U-19 Championship with four goals and was responsible for creating a far greater number of opportunities.
3) LEE KANG-IN (KOREA REPUBLIC)
Having already made 11 appearances in all competition for Valencia, Lee Kang-in is on course to become the next big star of Asian football.
There has been speculation that he could even be more naturally gifted than compatriot Son Heung-min, who has been in brilliant form for Tottenham in the Premier League and is preparing to feature in the UEFA Champions League final.
Given he is yet to win his first senior cap, Lee has not yet risen to prominence but a fine showing at the U-20 World Cup could really make everyone sit up and take notice.
4) CUCHO HERNANDEZ (COLOMBIA)
Still only 20, Cucho Hernandez has spent the last season featuring for Huesca on loan from Watford and scored two goals on his international debut for Colombia last October.
As the only member of the squad who boasts senior experience, Hernandez will be an integral player at the U-20 World Cup but also will be looking for support from England-based prospects Anderson Arroyo and Jaime Alvarado of Liverpool and Watford respectively.
5) SARPREET SINGH (NEW ZEALAND)
Leading New Zealand’s charge at the tournament will be Sarpreet Singh, who is still only 20 but already has four senior caps and a goal to his name.
After making his professional debut in 2017, the attacker has already made 38 appearances in the A-League with Wellington Phoenix and is widely regarded as one of the competition’s most-exciting prospects.
While Singh’s immediate focus will be on the U-20 World Cup, he should not have to wait too long before getting a chance to help the All Whites reach the biggest stage of all with qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup set to kick off soon.
6) SHUNKI HIGASHI (JAPAN)
With Japan opting to leave out wonderkid Takefusa Kubo as he is tipped for a senior debut at the Copa America, there will be plenty of opportunities for others to step up and take the lead.
One man who is primed to lead the way is Shunki Higashi, the versatile wideman who can fill a role both in defence in midfield.
Despite his tender years, Higashi has already been exposed to plenty of first-team football and is part of the Sanfrecce Hiroshima side that recently progressed to the AFC Champions League Round of 16 following a run of five consecutive wins.
7) FLORENTINO LUIS (PORTUGAL)
Defensive midfielders do not always enjoy the limelight but Benfica’s Florentino Luis is promising to be a star of the future.
Considering he hails from a club that have regularly developed outstanding prospects – with Joao Felix and Ruben Dias just two of the most recent – Florentino has all the required foundation to be a success and netted his first Primeira Liga goal back in March in a 4-0 rout of Moreirense.
8) ANDRI SYAHPUTRA (QATAR)
Despite his Indonesian ancestry, Andri Syahputra will be representing Qatar at the U-20 World Cup having moved to the Aspire Academy in Doha from a young age .
The 19-year-old has already made a handful of appearances for Al Gharafa, where he would have rubbed shoulders with legendary Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder and Iran international Mehdi Taremi.
With Qatar boasting a host of other exciting prospects, including Nasser Al-Yazidi, Khaled Mohammed and Ahmed Al-Hamawende, they could just cause a surprise or two in Poland over the next few weeks.