Group E: USA looking for top spot

Though many expect USA to dominate the group, Belgium and Tunisia will be hot on the Americans' heels vying for a place in the next round. In addition, Tajikistan, who will be making their FIFA World Cup debut after storming through the Asian Championships, will be eager to prove they are not in town to merely to make up the numbers. For their part, the US have had mixed results in their preparation to date. In the eight-nation warm up tournament held in Korea in June, they suffered two consecutive defeats and elimination in the first round. However, the team bounced back on their European tour, outclassing Germany 3-1.

The teams

The matches (all times are local)
Belgium v Tunisia, Changwon, 20 August, 17:00
Tajikistan v USA, Changwon, 20 August, 20:00
USA v Tunisia, Changwon, 23 August, 17:00
Tajikistan v Belgium, Changwon, 23 August, 20:00
Belgium v USA, Cheonan, 26 August, 16:00
Tunisia v Tajikistan, Suwon, 26 August, 16:00

How they qualified
USA: 1st place in their CONCACAF qualifying group held in Jamaica
Tunisia: 4th place in the CAF U-17 Championships Togo 2007
Belgium: Semi-finalists in the UEFA U-17 Championships Belgium 2007
Tajikistan: 3rd place in the AFC U-17 Championships Singapore 2006

The location
The first four games in Group E will be played in Changwon, a city located in the south-eastern part of the Korean peninsula. It has witnessed great change since the 1970s to become the industrial centre that it is today. While Tunisia, Belgium and Tajikistan will be unfamiliar with the surroundings, the Americans have experience playing here.

Changwon Main Stadium, with a capacity of 27,000, is the only venue in the tournament to be home to two club sides, with Kyung Nam FC of the K.League and ChangWon City of the National League (Korea's second division) both playing there. The USA have previously played here as well, in their 2-1 defeat to Nigeria in June.

The crunch match: Belgium v USA, Cheonan, 26 August, 16:00
Belgium and USA travel to Cheonan for their final group match. Should the two teams pick up sufficient points in their opening two fixtures, this could turn out to be a battle for first place. While USA have qualified for every FIFA U-17 World Cup, they have failed to catch the eye apart from their semi-final appearance at New Zealand 1999. Coach John Hackworth is therefore emphasising the importance of getting past the first hurdle and reaching the Round of 16.

For their part, Belgium were unfortunate to lose out on penalties in the semi-final of the European Championship to eventual winners Spain, and coach Bob Browaeys will be hoping his players can recover from their disappointment last May and go all the way here.

The opening gambit:
John Hackworth, USA coach: "Our first aim, of course, is to progress through the group stages. Once we achieve that, we know that anything is possible."