Debutant Rwanda face England to open the venue of Pachuca at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. The Estadio Hidalgo will fling its doors open for the early game on the second day of action at the 2011 junior finals, with the African outsiders, hosts of the CAF qualifying tournament, looking to make their mark against the inventors of the modern game.
Rwanda-England, Sunday 19 June, Pachuca, 15:00 (local time)
For Rwanda, who sensationally finished runners-up amid much fanfare while hosting the African qualifiers, the opening game is an historic moment. The East African nation is still rebuilding after the horrific genocide of 1994, and are taking part in a FIFA competition for the first time. Their young team, led by French coach Richard Tardy and influential midfielder Mwesigye Tibingana, have the unique opportunity to inspire the country to new heights of unity through football.
While the English may have invented football as we know it, won a FIFA World Cup™ crown in 1966 and boast one of the best club leagues in the world, they have far less to brag about in the world of junior football. They have a spotty record at U-17 level, only ever qualifying for one previous World Cup, Korea 2007, where they reached the quarter-finals. They will hope to do better than that creditable performance this time out in Mexico. Coach John Peacock will rely heavily on young Everton ace Hallam Hope, who has proven himself a reliable poacher, to lead the charge.
3 – The number of defeats suffered by England in the 28 times that captain Nathaniel Chalobah has pulled on the national team jersey. The Chelsea defender also led the side to a U-17 European title last year, doing his part to help beat Spain in the final.
“We put in some good performances in qualifying and I'm really excited about the World Cup, the whole team is. It's going to be a huge event, a fantastic tournament and hopefully we’ll do well,” England striker Hallam Hope.
“When we were competing in the African competition earlier this year, people sat up and took notice. Mexico 2011 will be a very big event, not only in terms of football, but for the whole country in general,” Rwanda coach Richard Tardy.