Maradona Figo Marco van Basten plus a host of others all made their names here. Current Dutch masters Rafael van der Vaart and Arjen Robben played in Argentina 2001.
The UEFA U19 Championship in Switzerland last summer which also was the European qualifying tournament for the FIFA World Youth Championship showcased several major European talents. Johan Djourou (Arsenal) is much like his teammate Patrick Vieira. Djourou started the tournament as a substitute but ended as the best player in the Swiss team. In Spain's winning squad Juanfran stood out.
The Real Madrid midfielder is already a rival to Figo for a place in the Madrid team. Another possible future Galactico is Borja Valero who scored the winning goal in the extra time of the European Championship final against Turkey. Italy's Andrea Alberti is a striker for the future. The forward of Brescia Calcio scored three times during the tournament.
Ukraine gave every team a tough battle. Leaning on their strong defence the team played on the counter with Oleksandr Aliyev (Dynamo Kiev) proving a strong fast and dangerous striker. One of the most promising players in the German squad looked to be Michael Delura who has already appeared in Schalke'04's first team. Delura is a player for whom the game seems to come easily and he is already a promising captain.
Turkey gave the impression of being unbeatable but finally fell to Spain in extra time in the final. Key player Ali Özturk was a continuous threat while Sezer Özturk gave every goalkeeper a hard time with his outstanding free-kicks.
The players of the Asian countries are not yet known by a large audience but Netherlands '05 could see them becoming the public's favourites. The Chinese player Dong Fangzhou has already signed to Manchester United while the Korean-player Park Chu-young became topscorer of the Asian Youth Championships and earned the title 'best player of the tournament'.
Both he and his team mate Kim Seung-yong are elusive runners. Japan's big hope for the future is the 17-year-old Takyuki Marimoto while the Syrian captain Majed Al Haj is sure to make a big impression in the summer.
Benin surprised by qualifying for the FIFA World Youth Championship. The team is especially strong up front thanks to Gariba Abou Maiga. The 19-year-old Maiga plays in France and scored three times during the African Youth Cup. Nigeria are the current African champions and one of the favourites for the world title. They impressed during the African Youth Cup with their attacking style of play. Probably the dangerous man in the squad is Solomon Okoronkwo who plays for Hertha Berlin in Germany.
Egypt defeated the Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Youth Championship 2001 and finished that tournament taking an impressive third place. This year Egypt has again got a team that could beat anyone during the tournament. The Moroccan Mouhssine Yajour scored five goals during the African Youth Cup to become top scorer. His partnership with the Ajax-based player Rachid Tiberkanine could well bear fruit for Morocco in The Netherlands.
NORTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA
Last year the 15-year-old Freddy Adu was a target for a huge number of European clubs. This summer it will be the same story as Adu tries to win the title with the USA. The States qualified easily by winning all their group matches. Panama made it through to the finals for the second time and proved themselves a very tough nut to crack.
Canada are not well known as a football country but the Canadian team has accomplished much in recent times. During the last tournament they made it to the quarter-finals. Striker Ryan Gyaki who plays for Sheffield United could become a sensation - he scored all of Canada's goals during the qualifying round.
Honduras qualified by beating Mexico who were considered one of the favourites to reach the final round this summer. Honduras' attacking midfielder Cesar Guity is one to look out for.
Australia are usually regarded as outsiders but the Socceroos were by far the best team during the Oceania U20 championship. Whether the side will be able to match up with the 'big' teams is a question to be answered in June.
The South American countries are the favourites to become the new world champions. They have won eight of the fourteen FIFA World Youth Championships. Colombia are the current champions of South America. Hugo Rodallega is their target man who became the top scorer in the qualifying tournament in January.
Argentina were dethroned by Colombia but still have a fantastic team with FC Barcelona-youngster Lionel Messi as the most important player. Brazil have also won the title four times and will be looking to regain the crown - with Ajax Amsterdam-player Filipe one to watch. Chile were the last country to qualify after beating Uruguay.
The Chileans have 18-year-old Matias Fernandez in their line-up who is already one of the best free-kick takers in the world.