What To Watch For At The Under-20 World Cup

Gabriele Maltinti

New scouting duo Roberto De Fanti and Valentino Angeloni are well versed in finding young talent, and with another age-grade competition starting this week, we take a look at who Sunderland may be keeping an eye on at the Under-20 World Cup.

The excitement of foreign and often previously unheard of names linked to Sunderland shows no signs of abating, with the new recruitment team aiming to add quality to both the first team and development outfit. Six new players have joined Sunderland already this off-season at what is a very modest outlay, with the intention on using the bulk of available resources on high-quality additions.

The recent pursuit of Netherlands under-21 goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet indicates that both De Fanti and Angeloni will be using this tournament as another method of finding talent, and there are a number of players involved that the latter in particular is well aware of.

The most pertinent player to Sunderland interests in the tournament is unquestionably Alfred Duncan of Ghana. Since the announcement of the recruitment duo, it has been well-documented that the powerful midfielder is truly in plans to bolster Sunderland's midfield, with a number of bids seemingly rejected by Inter Milan thus far. The Nerazzuri have been linked to a clutch of midfielders themselves, which could see Duncan become disposable.

Duncan and his team-mates open the tournament on Friday against France, and one more of the Baby Black Stars may be worth keeping an eye on.

Michael Anaba currently plays for Asante Kotoko, one of our partner clubs. A 19-year-old midfielder, Anaba is Kotoko's only representative in the squad and was reportedly prevented from a move to Valencia in January. The story, which can be read here, also contains glowing recommendations of the combative midfielder. Considering the Ghanaian history at Udinese, he may well be a player that Angeloni is familiar with.

Juan Fernando Quintero will be key to Colombia's hopes in the tournament, and spent the early part of this year being linked with both Udinese and Inter. Again, Udinese have previous in scouting such an area - Cristian Zapata, Pablo Armero and current forward Lucas Muriel - and Angeloni personally watched Quintero last season playing for Pescara. However, recent events have seen Genoa purchase co-ownership of the player, and any potential Sunderland pursuit would be at considerable cost.

Two of Quintero's team-mates - Jherson Vergara Amu and Brayan Perea - have recently joined Serie A clubs from domestic teams, and could remain an area of interest.

Uruguayan striker Nicolas Lopez was another player who went through the Udinese filter, before eventually joining Roma in 2012. Despite a prolific record for both club and country at age-grade level, he has found himself on the periphery of the first-team squad at the Stadio Olimpico, and retains a degree of intrigue mainly due to his clever movement at the head of attacks.

One final port of call is Group F side Croatia, from where Inter's latest prodigy Mateo Kovacic hails. Whilst he will not feature in the tournament, 17-year-old striker Stipe Perica is one to watch out for.

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