Three of Fulham’s young stars will be in action as the FIFA Under-20 World Cup begins this weekend – with Ryan Williams and Corey Gameiro playing for Australia and Kerim Frei for host nation Turkey.
The two countries will be fighting it out in Group C alongside El Salvador and Colombia, and will face each other in the final group game on 28th June. In total, there are seven host cities which will see matches played over the course of the tournament: Antalya, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Kayseri, Rize and Trabzon, with the Fulham trio based initially in Rize and Trabzon ahead of the knockout stages.
As the host country, Turkey have automatically qualified and have much do to if they are to placate their vocal home support.
The Turks have only appeared twice at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup before: struggling to progress past the group stage in 1993 and losing to Spain in the last-16 in 2005. Strangely, they have only ever won one of their games at the tournament – the 1-0 win over Panama in 2005.
However, coach Feyyaz Ucar has plenty of options to choose from in his bid to improve the performances and can call upon our own winger Kerim Frei.
Frei struggled with injury and made just 11 appearances for the First Team this season after a loan spell with Cardiff City, but he has made strides for his country and made his first Turkish national team appearance against Denmark in November 2012. He also played in the 3-3 friendly draw with Latvia, suggesting he is ready to make a push for both Senior and First Team honours next season.
Australia picked up one of the four slots from the Asian region alongside Iraq, Korea Republic and Uzbekistan after they reached the semi-finals of the 2012 AFC Under-19 Championship. The Young Socceroos suffered a 2-0 defeat against Iraq in the semis, but will be hoping to better their efforts in the early days of this tournament when they made it to consecutive semi-final appearances in 1991 and 1993.
Williams has played in the Fulham Under-21 side this season, after a 28-day loan stint with npower League Two side Gillingham, while Gameiro also spent time on loan when he joined Wellington Phoenix in the Australian A-League in February but will see his Fulham contract expire at the end of the month.
Under the management of Paul Okon, the squad will also be looking to end a decade-long drought from the knockout stage of the FIFA U-20 World Cup but are well placed to make a good run.