The build-up to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 quickened to a fever pitch on Tuesday evening as the Official Draw put teams in their venues and mouth-watering match-ups into the tournament schedule. Held at the famous Sala Nezahualcóyotl concert hall in the heart of Mexico City, the draw ended a nervous wait for the 24 finalists as they discovered the identity of their rivals in the group phase, which kicks off with hosts Mexico taking on Korea DPR in Morelia on 18 June.
Attended by 900 guests and some 250 journalists, the red-carpet gala ceremony was packed full of colour and local charm. Local musical acts Coir and Orchestra Sinfónica Esperanza Azteca Puebla wowed the gathered crowd and the national television audience, who were treated to the event live in their homes.
“Welcome to all the teams. Welcome to the world. Welcome to this, our country of great tradition and football,” said Margarita Zavala, first lady of the nation, in an elegant opening address. FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, who stands as President of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, was next to extoll the virtues of the host country. “This is the fifth time Mexico has hosted a FIFA event, and they keep outdoing themselves. I am sure this will be the best yet.”
After the speeches and VIP appearances, the time came for the main event, the moment everyone was waiting for: the Draw itself. Following a video presentation of previous U-17 finals and past world football events held in Mexico, Draw conductor Gordon Savic took to the stage. With the help of 2010 Miss Universe Ximena Navarrete and former Mexico U-17 coach Jesus Ramirez, he set about the job of pulling balls from bowls and placing the 24 qualified teams into six groups of four.
And when the draw got under way, it threw up more than its fair share of intriguing match-ups. With former champions Switzerland failing to qualify for the tournament, new champions will be crowned. Hosts Mexico, led by coach and former national team star Raul Gutierrez, will be hoping to add another title to the title they earned in Peru in 2005, but will have their work cut out in a challenging Group A.
Australia are aligned at the top of what would have to be considered the ‘group of death,’ with three-time champions Brazil, African hopefuls Côte d'Ivoire and European dark horses Denmark joining them. In all, the field looks even and intriguing as all the nations take aim at glory and set the watching world alight with their youthful enthusiasm and big dreams.
The groups for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 are as follows:
Group A (Morelia/Monterrey)
2. Korea DPR
Group B (Monterrey/Morelia)
Group C (Pachuca/Torreon)
Group D (Torreon/Pachuca)
2. Czech Republic
4. New Zealand
Group E (Queretaro/Guadalajara)
1. Burkina Faso
Group F (Guadalajara/ Queretaro)
2. Côte d'Ivoire