There will not be an empty seat at the Estadio Morelos de Morelia on Saturday, when the host nation raises the curtain on the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 with an intriguing Group A opener against Asian champs Korea DPR.
The waiting is finally over for Raul Gutierrez and his young men. Their preparations complete, they must now face the pressure of kicking off the FIFA U-17 World Cup in front of their ever-demanding fans and against a direct and speedy side capable of punishing the slightest mistake. The Mexican back-line will need to be on their guard to contain the lively passing game of the Asian champions.
It remains to be seen, however, how the North Koreans will handle the atmosphere, which is sure to be intense, and how they will cope with an organised Mexico side well versed in the ways of possession football. The outcome will depend to a large extent on how both teams control their nerves in front of an expectant full house.
7 - The number of times that Mexico have faced Asian opposition in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. In winning four of those games, drawing two and losing just the one, the Mexicans have scored 15 goals and conceded seven, with that solitary defeat coming against Japan at Finland 2003. This is the first time they have faced Korea DPR, however.
“We’re the home side and I think we need to respond to that and take the game to them from the start. They’re a typical Asian side who can break very quickly and they have a couple of really talented individuals too. If they’re the best on their continent, then it must be for a reason,” Mexico coach Raul Gutierrez.
“It’s the inaugural match, against the host nation too, and we know how much it matters. What really matters for us, though, is that it could decide our fate in the group phase,” Korea DPR coach An Ye Gun.