First step for USA, Czechs

USA and Czech Republic face off in what is sure to be a hotly contested fixture at the Estadio Torreon this Sunday, the second day of action from the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011. It is a match that could well decide the pecking order in Group D and is one that both teams have earmarked this as a ‘must-win’.

The game

USA-Czech Republic, Sunday 19 June, Torreon, 18.00 (local time)

The stakes
It is straight down to business for the two teams widely tipped to top the section. The pair have some history in this competition, having met at the 1993 edition in Japan, where they shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw.

USA, who have competed in every edition of this tournament, will be hoping for a positive start in their bid to reach the second round as group winners. They will not be lacking in confidence either, having assembled a harmonious and gifted squad, one that won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in some style.

Czech Republic, for their part, are making only their second appearance at the event. Their first was at Japan 1993, while part of the former Czechoslovakia, where they won their group but were sent packing in the quarter-finals. Josef Csaplar’s charges booked their place at Mexico 2011 tournament courtesy of three draws at the UEFA U-17 European Championship, thought they missed out on a place in that tournament’s semi-finals. Now, after a successful preparation, expectations are growing that they can make a strong impression at the global showpiece.

The stat
14 -
the number of times USA have competed in this tournament. Ever-present at the 13 previous editions, their best finish to date was fourth place at New Zealand 1999 with a team that included Landon Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu.

The words
“It’ll be a hard match, for sure, and we aim to win, but we’ll never forget that we must show our style of play to everybody. The players are proud to be appearing in this tournament and will give their all. I watched the Czech Republic in the European Championship, and they have some excellent players and a solid backbone which will force us to be at our best in our first encounter,” USA coach Wilmer Cabrera.  

“We’re happy to be playing in the World Cup. It’s a great challenge for everyone, especially the players, to prove they deserve to be here. Hopefully they can use it as a starting point to reach new heights. The first match is always difficult, and even more so when you’re playing one of the favourites, but we’re aiming to get a positive result,” Czech Republic coach Josef Csaplar.