21015_isi_canouserussell_usmntu20mj071814190 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
U-20 World Cup

Boxi Yomba and Russell Canouse Discuss U-20 Draw

The United States under-20 men's national team received a favorable draw for this summer's World Cup in New Zealand, facing the host country, Myanmar, and Ukraine.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
February 10, 2015
10:31 AM
IN A PUBLIC SETTING, Tab Ramos will probably downplay last night’s U-20 World Cup draw and insist that his focus is on his team and not the opponents. Behind closed doors, however, he is probably thrilled at how the events unfolded in Auckland last night.

The U.S. under-20 national team team was drawn into Group A with hosts New Zealand, Myanmar, and Ukraine. That draw should make the U.S. the favorite to win the group and it is a vast improvement over the 2013 draw when the U.S. U-20s played in a group that included Spain, Ghana, and France.

The 2015 group is favorable but it is no cakewalk. New Zealand is the host country and will likely draw inspiration from playing in front of a large and boisterous crowd. Ukraine advanced to the tournament by virtue of winning a European group that consisted of England, Montenegro, and Scotland. Myanmar is a mystery to even the most ardent of youth soccer experts.

The good news for Tab Ramos and his young team is that in addition to the group winners and runners-up, four out of the six third-place finishers will also advance.

U.S. U-20 forward Boxi Yomba is both optimistic and cautious about the draw. The Atletico Madrid youth product knows that the team will have to play well.

“We can't be too upset with our draw for the group stages," Yomba told American Soccer Now. "We avoided some of the usual powerhouses of Germany or Argentina, but that doesn't mean it will be easy. We play the home nation, so that will for sure be a tough game. We play Ukraine, who for sure we know will be defensively strong. And then we have Myanmar, who are playing in their first World Cup so will have a lot of energy.

“It feels good knowing potentially we are favorites but as we saw in the World Cup in Brazil—upsets are there in the making,” Yomba said, noting that Spain didn't survive the group stages last summer.

"Our expectations now should be extremely high," Yomba continued. "We have a group that's there for the taking, and we ideally would like to finish first to potentially avoid Argentina in Group B.”

The U.S. will open its U-20 World Cup campaign on May 30th against Myanmar at the Northland Events Centre in Whangarei—an 8,186-seat venue in New Zealand's northernmost city.

The U.S. will then head to Auckland to take on New Zealand at the 25,000-capacity North Harbour Stadium on June 2nd. North Harbour Stadium will also be the venue for the Americans' final group stage game against Ukraine on June 5.

Hoffenheim midfielder Russell Canouse was the U.S. U-20 captain for the final four games of World Cup qualifying and was one of the team’s best players in that tournament. He share’s both Yomba’s excitement and concern about the draw.

“I think everyone is pretty excited about the draw we ended up getting,” Canouse said. “It obviously looks like we will be the favorite but I am still heading into the tournament cautious because it is a World Cup. Any team that qualified will most likely be a top team and tough to beat.”

“I think Ukraine will be a hard game for us because I expect them to have very skillful players on the ball and have a sturdy back line,” Canouse continued. “On the other hand, we play against the host New Zealand, which will also be very difficult considering the environment.

"A lot is at stake in these games but I am really excited for our team and I think we have the quality to do well in this tournament.”

What do you think of the daw? Excited for the U-20s chances this time around? Share your take below.

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