Group D could not ask for a better opening spectacle. France and Nigeria, two previous winners of the tournament, come face-to-face with the intention of staking an early claim for a place in the second round. While the opening match is predominantly a case of building up points and confidence for the remainder of the competition, this crunch encounter will also provide an opportunity to settle scores and relive old memories.
This is a match that neither team wants to lose, especially as the two rivals are keen to start their respective campaigns on a high. The Golden Eaglets are strong contenders following their previous titles in 1985 and 1993, not to mention their recent conquest of the CAF U-17 Championship in Togo. The African champs will also be keen to equal Brazil's record by claiming a third FIFA U-17 World Cup crown. For their part, the Bleuets have not kicked a ball in the finals since 2001 and will have a point to prove on their return to the biggest stage of them all.
In fact, the last time France played a FIFA U-17 World Cup match, they ended up clinching the trophy. That was in the Final at Trinidad and Tobago 2001, when the Mini Bleus secured victory at the expense of none other than - wait for it - Nigeria. So, all the ingredients are in place to make this an especially spicy affair with more than just points at stake.
As they head into the final stages of the competition proper, the two squads are ready and raring to go and have no injuries or suspensions to contend with. The only question mark is how just quickly the players will adapt to the oppressively hot and humid conditions of the Korean summer.
Somewhat surprisingly, these two great footballing nations have rarely crossed paths at any age level. In fact, the only previous competitive meetings between these two teams took place in this very tournament, at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Trinidad and Tobago 2001. On that occasion, Nigeria won the bragging rights in the group phase, though France went on to exact their revenge in the Final. Nevertheless, a defeat in this match is unlikely to dent the ambitions of either team.
Even if he fails to make an appearance out on the Gwangyang Soccer Only Field, France goalkeeper Abdoulaya Keita is sure to be the centre of attention in the dressing room. The young stopper from Bordeaux will celebrate his 17th birthday this Sunday. The following day, Nigeria striker Macauley Chrisantus will also be blowing out the candles on his 17th birthday cake. No doubt their teammates will be looking forward to giving them an extra special birthday present in the form of three valuable points.
"It's a great opportunity to be able to take part in a competition like this because you have to overcome so many obstacles just to get here. We're just eager to get started and progress as far as possible." Said Mehamha, France midfielder.
"We approach every game like it's a final and we don't take any match for granted. We don't underestimate any opponent, although we don't overestimate them either." Manu Garba, Nigeria assistant coach.