SANTIAGO – The 2019 South American U-20 soccer championship is poised to get underway this week in Chile with observers hoping to see the competition that has marked the debut of global greats such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi introduce a new generation of stars.
The event was a promotional platform for Argentine legend Diego Maradona, who played in the 1977 and 1979 tourneys.
When Ronaldinho appeared with Brazil in the 1999 South American U-20, he was a gangly 19-year-old who was just beginning to make his mark.
In that tournament, in which the Brazilian youngster scored three goals, the world started to glimpse the wonders that later became the delights of soccer.
A similar situation occurred with Lionel Messi, the little Argentine dribbler who during a match in 2005 in Colombia demonstrated a superior set of skills, although on that occasion, despite Messi’s scoring six goals, it was Colombian Hugo Rodallega who was hailed as the top goal-scorer, with 11.
Other great regional players also showed what they could do in the South American U-20, performances that helped them make the jump to the best professional soccer clubs in the world.
Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, now with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), was the top scorer of the 2007 edition, with seven goals.
In 2011, it was the turn of Neymar – a former Barcelona star who nowadays leads the PSG – to emerge as the best striker of the South American U-20, scoring 9 goals and leading the Brazilian national team to victory. Also playing on that team were Lucas Moura (Tottenham Hotspur), Casemiro (Real Madrid) and William Jose (Real Sociedad).
The 2019 edition of the tourney begins Thursday in the Chilean city of Rancagua.