Several months after sealing their places, the 24 teams due to contest the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 have at last been able to put their feet down on Nigerian soil and feel the building excitement. The competition itself does not start for another two months, of course, but the first rush of adrenaline is sure to come this evening in Abuja, where representatives from the tournament hopefuls will attend the draw in the capital city's International Conference Centre (ICC).
With FIFA vice-president and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009, Jack A. Warner, in attendance, the sides through to the finals will discover what fate has in store for them between 24 October and 15 November. And to add even more weight to the festivities, many legends of the Nigerian game will be on hand, including Portsmouth forward Nwankwo Kanu and former Super Eagles players Samson Siasia, Tijjani Babangida and Victor Ikpeba, in addition to Mercy Akide, the first African to be named FIFA Women's World Player of the Year in 2002, and Nduka Ugbade, captain of the U-17 team that won the very first FIFA U-17 World Cup in China PR in 1985.
Over two decades on from that breakthrough triumph, the Golden Eaglets again look a team to be feared. As hosts, they will be carried forward by a nation completely fanatical about the game, and they will also be desperate to defend their title. In Korea Republic two years ago, the Nigerians lifted the trophy for a third time to move level with Brazil as the most successful side in the history of the competition.
A Seleção were eliminated prematurely last time out, losing to Ghana in the Round of 16, but since then they have returned to form, winning the South American qualifying tournament. Buoyed by that success, they will touch down in Nigeria with the goal that every Brazilian team sets out to attain – seizing the global title – making them another side everyone will be keen to avoid in the draw. Meanwhile, their fellow South American representatives Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay can also be expected to provide a stiff challenge.
With France and Russia both absent, none of the European teams involved has previous experience of winning this tournament. That said, all of them appear to be potential champions. Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey enjoy a reputation that suggests they will provide a test for anyone, and the hopefuls from Africa may look less impressive on paper, while Algeria, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Malawi proved their strength by downing their higher-profile rivals in qualifying.
World champions in Peru in 2005, Mexico made waves again two years later – by failing to qualify – meaning the current crop of Mexican talent will no doubt be set on atoning for that setback. Costa Rica, Honduras and USA complete the line-up from the CONCACAF region and all will be anxious to learn who they will face in the group stage.
As for the Asian contingent, they will enjoy a slight advantage when the action begins, having earned their berths back in October 2008, a year before the tournament kicks off. Since then, Japan, Korea Republic, Iran and United Arab Emirates have all been able to prepare their campaigns in peace and will doubtless be eager to display the fruits of that labour. Lastly, New Zealand hope to do Oceania proud and will be crossing their fingers that they are handed an easier draw than in 2007, when they were left in a group with England, Brazil and Korea DPR.
With geographic and sporting criteria in mind, the names of the 24 qualified teams have been divided in to four pots each with six teams:
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Burkina Faso||Uruguay||Korea Republic||Netherlands|
The FIFA Organising Committee has approved a request of the Nigerian Local Organising Committee to seed and assign to a particular venue the host, Nigeria, and Brazil as the leader of the FIFA U-17 all time ranking. Both teams are three-times FIFA U-17 world champions.
The seeded team Nigeria, the host, is in a green ball and has been assigned to Group A position 1 and thus will be based in Abuja. Brazil is in a red ball and has been assigned to Group B position 1 based in Lagos.
It is FIFA's principle to ensure that no group has more than one team from the same confederation drawn into it.
Only a few hours remain until they, and everyone else, finds out who their group-stage opponents will be, so stay connected to FIFA.com and take yourself to the heart of the event. You will find all the information you need on the tournament, including reactions, team profiles, the make-up of the groups and match schedule.