Group A of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2007 has a distinctly cosmopolitan feel to it, with host nation and group favourites Korea Republic flying the flag for Asia, Costa Rica and Peru doing their bit for Latin American pride, and gifted African outfit Togo completing an intriguing quartet. On paper, the Koreans appear to be slight favourites, particularly with their fans behind them. One thing is for certain, however; they will not have an easy time of it.
The fixtures (all times are local)
Costa Rica - Togo, Suwon, 18 August, 17:00
Korea Republic - Peru, Suwon, 18 August, 20:00
Togo - Peru, Suwon, 21 August, 17:00
Costa Rica - Korea Republic, Suwon, 21 August, 20:00
Korea Republic - Togo, Ulsan, 24 August, 20:00
Peru - Costa Rica, Jeju, 24 August, 20:00
How they qualified
Costa Rica: second place in Group B of CONCACAF qualifying, held in April 2007 in Jamaica.
Korea Republic: qualify automatically as hosts
Peru: fourth place at the South American U-17 Championship Ecuador 2007
Togo: runners-up at the CAF African U-17 Championship Togo 2007
The four teams will be based in the capital of the Gyeonggi-do province, Suwon, which is about 30 km from the national capital Seoul. An industrial city, Suwon is probably best known for being one of Korea Republic's footballing hotbeds. Local side the Bluewings are Korea's most popular team, and their fans famed for their passionate and full-blooded support.
Hosting the games in Suwon will be the Suwon Sports Complex, built in 1971. This atmospheric ground holds 27,100 spectators and was home to the well-loved Bluewings until their recent move to the brand-new FIFA World Cup™ Stadium. The stadium is now used by Suwon FC, one of the top teams in the South Korean second tier.
The crunch match: Peru - Costa Rica, Jeju, 20:00
Assuming Korea Republic make the most of home advantage and win the group, second spot could well be decided by the outcome of this Latin American showdown. Peruvians take on Ticos on the island of Jeju, on the group's final matchday, and the result is sure to define both sides' future in the competition. The scene is therefore set for an engaging encounter between two teams that share many footballing traits: touch, pace and plenty of one-touch moves. All the evidence suggests that the fans on Jeju are in for a veritable festival of pinpoint passing and classy interplay.
The opening gambit
Park Kyung-hoon, Korea Republic coach: "We need to live out our dream and cement our place at the summit of Asian football. Our work with the youngsters needs to improve if we wish to repeat our past successes. That said, I'm very confident that we've got enough quality to reach the semi-finals."