KENYA BROWN - Friday, May 29, 2015
Saturday marks the start of the FIFA U-20 World Cup and the United States will play their first Group A game against debutants Myanmar in Whangarei, New Zealand.
The U.S. was given a rather easy path to qualify for the second round of the tournament, but nothing ever comes easy and they will be looking to make a strong impression against their opponents from Southeast Asia.
After getting off to a slow start to their quest to qualify for the World Cup at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica, the U.S. would find their footing to finish second in their group and knockoff El Salvador in the playoff stage. However, the run up to the cup has been a bit shaky as the team lost a pair of close games against Tottenham Hotspur Academy and England in March. They did bounce back with a 2-1 win against the Australia U-20s last week, which is positive step as they head into Saturday's opener.
The U.S. will certainly field a strong side come Saturday night, but the player many will be anticipating to watch is midfielder Gedion Zelalem. After the long process of gaining his citizenship and getting approval from FIFA to start his international career, the 18-year-old Arsenal prospect made his debut for the U.S. in the Australia game and expectations are quite high for him to produce on the field.
While the German-born and American raised Zelalem did not do much in his debut, the game against Myanmar will be a great platform for him show off just what the United States may have in store for in the future when he makes the step up to the senior team.
There is no guarantee that he will be in the starting lineup, but he should play a role in this first game as U-20 head coach Tab Ramos continues to fit him into team.
As for Myanmar, there is not much information on the team that will make its U-20 World Cup debut. They have made their way into the tournament by finishing fourth at the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship by defeating the likes of Iran and the United Arab Emirates along the way.
The team is completely comprised of players from the country's domestic league and they will be eager to at least put up a fight against the heavily favored U.S. side.
However, the U.S. should have no problems handling the White Angels as they hope to exceed expectations.