Group D: Winning traditions and great ambitions

Of the 24 teams bidding for glory in Korea, only four have already won this prestigious trophy, and two of them are in Group D. It remains to be seen which teams will assert their authority out on the pitches of Gwangyang, Jeju and Goyang. France, winners in 2001, and Nigeria, winners in 1985 and 1993, will have the benefit of past experience but must beware of formidable challengers Japan, whose quick and lively style of play gets them results at every age level.

Last but not least are group minnows Haiti, who will want to make their first FIFA U-17 World Cup as memorable an experience as their qualifying campaign. The Caribbeans secured their ticket to Korea by topping Group A in the preliminary competition, overshadowing Mexico and thus denying the reigning world champions the chance to defend their title.

The teams

The fixtures (all kick-off times are local)
Nigeria - France, Gwangyang, 19 August, 16:00
Japan - Haiti, Gwangyang, 19 August, 19:00
Haiti - France, Gwangyang, 22 August, 17:00
Japan - Nigeria, Gwangyang, 22 August, 20:00
Nigeria - Haiti, Jeju, 25 August, 19:00
France - Japan, Goyang, 25 August, 19:00

How they qualified
France: semi-finalists at the UEFA U-17 Championship Belgium 2007
Nigeria: winners of the CAF U-17 Championship Togo 2007
Japan: winners of the AFC U-17 Championship Singapore 2006
Haiti: Group A winners at CONCACAF Qualifying, held in Honduras in April 2007

The location
Four out of the six group matches will be played in Gwangyang, a city on the South Sea coast whose name literally means 'field of lights'. Sparks are sure to fly as the stars of tomorrow showcase their dazzling talent in this port city, where the four squads have already set up camp.

Those aiming to see the fledgling contenders in action must head to Gwangyang Soccer Only Field. This welcoming and cosy arena seats 13,500 spectators and is home to the Chunnam Dragons, winners of the 2006 Korean FA Cup.

The final two Group D matches will take place in the World Cup Stadium on Jeju, an island lying off the southern coast of Korea, and Goyang Stadium, which is situated in the outskirts of Seoul.

The crunch match: Nigeria - France, Gwangyang, 19 August, 16:00)
Of all the 36 first round matches to be played, only one will bring together two former champions of the FIFA U-17 World Cup: the opening match in Group D between Nigeria and France. Aware of the need to hit the ground running in a competition of this scale, the Golden Eaglets and the Mini-Bleus will be keen to bag their first three points of the campaign and steal a march on their rivals in the race for second round qualification.

Under the guidance of coach Yemi Tella, the African champions hope to sustain the good form which has seen them win eight out of their last nine competitive matches, besides clinching the title of African U-17 champions in the process. As for Francois Blaquart's charges, they will recall that the last match played by the Mini-Bleus in the FIFA U-17 World Cup ended with victory in the Final of Trinidad and Tobago 2001. As luck would have it, their opponents on that day were none other than Nigeria.

The opening gambit
Hiroshi Jofuku, Japan coach: "We've landed ourselves in a tough group. With the exception of France, all our rivals have won their regional championships. No-one can predict what will happen in Korea, but we certainly intend to make the most of this opportunity to tell the rest of the world: 'Get ready for a big performance!"