The FIFA U20 World Cup is set to have its fourth host change in history after FIFA’s decision to strip Indonesia’s hosting rights in late March 2023.
The U20 World Cup appears to be no stranger to host changes. Previously, the world football governing body had to switch hosts three times due to various reasons, all of which took place in the 1990s.
The 2023 edition is the next one to see a new host with only less than two months. Indonesia was originally scheduled to stage the tournament on May 22 to June 10. However, the rise of political stance on Israel from some of their irresponsible politicians and Moslem conservative groups led FIFA to cancel the U20 World Cup draw on March 26. Indonesia eventually lost their hosting rights a few days later due to their own mistake. What’s more, they must brace themselves for the pile of sanctions ahead.
As a replacement, Argentina, Qatar and Peru have expressed their interests in hosting the competition. Argentina, which did not qualify for the tournament, is the current front runner, having officially submitted their bid. FIFA is reportedly still keen on staging the championship in the summer as planned.
It remains to be seen whether the new host will be able to capitalize on this rare chance to get past the group stage. In the tournament’s history, only two out of three newly appointed hosts managed to do so in their campaign.
Previous host change at a FIFA U20 World Cup
The first ever host change in World Cup U20 occurred in the early 1990s. Nigeria was originally awarded the chance to hold the tournament in 1991. Unfortunately, they stumbled on the age fabrication case in the late 1980s. The Super Eagles were found guilty of registering three overage players for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. Andrew Uwe, Dahiru Sadi and the former Super Eagle boss in World Cup 2014 Samson Siasia were no longer 23 years old – the age limit in football at the Olympics – when they joined the U23 squad.
FIFA then banned Nigeria for two years in 1989. It meant that the African side was forced out of the competition, as well as losing their hosting rights. Portugal, who was the reigning champions of the World Youth Championship at that time, stepped in to replace them. They were able to defend their title, beating Brazil 4-2 on penalties in the final after a stalemate in 120 minutes. Luis Figo, João Pinto and Rui Costa were key figures in their success.
The second host change happened two years later. Yugoslavia was the original host of 1993 edition. Nonetheless, the Balkan War, which lasted from 1991 to 1995, tore the country apart. FIFA then chose Australia to host the tournament.
In the final round, the young Socceroos made the most of their opportunity. They managed to reach the semi final after finishing second in their group behind Russia. In the quarterfinals, Kevin Muscat and co surprisingly eliminated Uruguay 2-1 after extra time. Sadly, they were hapless against Brazil in the last four. Australia suffered another defeat at the third place playoff versus England.
Nigeria was unable to retain its hosting rights for the tournament once more in 1995. Due to the meningitis outbreak, they were forced to withdraw from the final round. FIFA eventually chose Qatar to take over the event.
Unlike the first two host replacements, Qatar had one of their worst campaigns in history. They only secured one point at the group stage, sharing spoils against Russia in a 1-1 draw at the opener. Unfortunately, the Middle East team fell short in their games against Syria and Brazil. Jorgen Erik Larsen’s men failed to progress as they sat at the bottom of the table.
Such a result was quite disappointing considering the Maroon’s fairly positive record at previous U20 World Cups. They were the runners up in the 1981 edition. Qatar made their debut in the competition at that time and shocked the world after eliminating Brazil and England at the knockout stage. However, their hopes to win the title were dashed once West Germany thrashed them 4-0 in the final.