Three big weeks of football are kicking off on Saturday, with the start of the Fifa U-20 World Cup.
At least 4680 minutes, 78 hours, or 3 and a quarter days of continuous game time will be played. In that time, 504 players will take the field from 24 national teams in 52 matches across seven different host cities, all in New Zealand.
Some of those players are hot prospects to be the next Messi, Ronaldo or Maradona.
Here are our players to watch.
Angel Correa - Argentina
Compared by many with Argentinian great Sergio Aguero for both his appearance and skill, 20 year old striker Correa is already strutting his stuff with the big dogs.
Last year he signed a five-year contract with La Liga holders Atlético Madrid for a reported €7.5 million ($11.3 million NZD). Soon after however Correa was sidelined for over six months with a heart tumour.
After surgery and recovery, he officially joining the club in December. He was quick to hit his stride again; playing a lead role in Argentina’s win of the South American U-20 Championship earlier this year, taking the Player of the Tournament award in a performance that including numerous assists and a man of the match performance in the final. If he can carry that form to New Zealand, this will be a player for fans to watch, and opponents to fear.
Check out Correa's goal in the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship.
Giovanni Simeone - Argentina
Joining Carrea in what will be a menacing attacking force is Giovanni Simeone; son of Argentine international and Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone.
Showing fine form already this season Simeone was the top scorer at this year’s South American U-20 Championship scoring nine goals in as many games.
A strong finisher, aided by the strong support play from Carrea, Simeone will be one of the hot favourites in the running for the tournament top scorer’s golden boot.
Andreas Pereira - Brazil
The 19-year-old midfielder has been playing under the wing of Manchester United since 2011, making the first-team squad this season and has just recently extended his contract through to 2018. Picked by the side’s coach as having the skills to become an integral part of the starting line up, he’s sure to be a spark in the Brazilian arsenal.
Andres Tello - Columbia
Part of a strong side in the South American U-20 Championship, Tello was an exciting player in Columbia’s runner-up effort in January. Able to be the playmaker at the back, and also a striker on the wing, the 18-year-old’s talents are already being eyed up by Italian club Juventus. Currently on loan to the club from Envigado, Tello looks set to join one of the European football's great names.
Interview with Columbian television:
Marc Stendera - Germany
This attacking midfielder is already a go-to for Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt making his debut back in the 2012/2013 season. In his first start for the club against Schalke 04 in 2013, Stendera managed an assist in Frankfurt’s 1-0 win. A known goal scorer at professional level, Stendera will be looking to strike the back of the net in New Zealand.
Bill Tuiloma - New Zealand
Captain of the New Zealand side, the defender has already had U-20 World Cup experience and has become a regular for the men’s side the All Whites. The midfielder and playmaker will enter the tournament buzzing after he debuted for Ligue 1’s Olympique de Marseille in February. Now on New Zealand soil, Tuiloma will be looking to lead the team to a strong performance in front of the home crowd.
Check out this report from Tagata Pasifika last year:
Kelechi Iheanacho - Nigeria
Attacking force for Nigeria, Iheanacho will have his eye on the goal. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2151150-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-manchester-city-prodigy-kelechi-iheanacho Iheanacho was player of tournament in the 2013 U-17 World Cup. Picked up after by Manchester City, Iheanacho has been labeled by some as the next big thing to emerge from African football. The Nigerian Fifa U-17 side won the tournament, a tournament which Nigeria has won more than any other country. It has however failed to take out the U-20 despite making the final twice, something Iheanacho will be looking to change.
Marcos ‘Rony’ Lopes - Portugal
Lopes was lured to Manchester City from Benfica at the age of 15. Two years later he became the club's youngest goalscorer in a 3-0 victory over Watford in the FA Cup. Now 19, the Portuguese attacking midfielder has become a fixture for the French side Lille’s first team while on loan. He has the second-highest number of goals and assists for a teenager in Europe's top five leagues this season.
Rodrigo Amaral - Uruguay
At just 18, Amaral is still very much an up-and-coming player but will be one to keep an eye on during the tournament. The attacker has been a top goal scorer for Uruguayan club Nacional in their youth teams and looks set to join the club’s first side. Part of the third place Uruguayan team in this year’s South American U-20 Championship, Amaral, who was 17 at the time, won the Revelation Award for being the breakthrough player of the tournament.
Gedion Zelalem - USA
Only officially made an American citizen in December, Zelalem will bolster the US national team after clearing various Fifa hurdles to compete for the side. The Arsenal midfielder has had senior game time for the Premier League giant and looks set to join the ranks as a regular in the future. A clever playmaker, Zelalem will pick holes in the defence of his opponents and is sure to help the US find the back of the net.
Cover image: Argentina's Angel Correa. AFP.