Group A: Big three braced for battle

Every finals draw seems to throw up a potentially explosive group in which one of the tournament favourites must inevitably fall at the very first hurdle. In the case of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 that section is Group A, comprising as it does defending champions and tournament hosts Nigeria, South American runners-up Argentina and European champions Germany. Spare a thought then for Honduras, the side with the unenviable task of competing against that illustrious trio.

After finishing third at Korea 2007 the Germans have their sights set on winning the tournament this time, an ambition shared by the Albiceleste, who are coached by one Jose Luis Brown, a FIFA World Cup™ winner with Argentina at Mexico 1986. For group outsiders Honduras, meanwhile, expectations are much lower, although the Central Americans could have plenty to say over the next few days, especially with the big guns taking points off each other.

The teams in Group A

The matches (all kick-offs in local time)
Nigeria-Germany, Abuja, 24 October, 19:00
Honduras-Argentina, Abuja, 24 October, 16:00
Argentina-Germany, Abuja, 27 October, 16:00
Nigeria-Honduras, Abuja, 27 October, 19:00
Germany-Honduras, Abuja, 30 October, 16:00
Argentina-Nigeria, Bauchi, 30 October, 16:00

How they qualified
Nigeria: Qualified automatically as host nation.
Germany: Winner of the UEFA U-17 European Championship 2008/2009.
Honduras: Second in Group A of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Mexico.
Argentina: Second in the South American U-17 Championship in Chile.

The location
The sides running out at Abuja's magnificent National Stadium can expect to be cheered on by crowds of up to 60,000, and full houses will almost certainly be the norm for Nigeria's games. Opened in 2003, the stadium regularly plays host to the senior national side, the Super Eagles, and was also the venue for eight matches at the All-Africa Games in October 2003.

Nigeria's administrative capital since 1991, Abuja is a modern business city offering plenty in the way of culture and tourist attractions and popular with locals and visitors alike. The city skyline is dominated by Aso Rock, its most symbolic landmark, and Abuja is also home to the vast national mosque and the national Christian centre, which stand facing each other on one of its main thoroughfares.

Standing some 400 metres high, Aso Rock takes its name from the language of an ancient and now-displaced ethnic group known as the Asokoro, which means "the people of victory". It remains to be seen which of the two sides will take inspiration from that.

Abuja will host five of the six games in the section, with the last-day meeting between Nigeria and Argentina taking place in Bauchi at the same time as the Germany-Honduras match.

The crunch match: Germany-Nigeria
This opening-day showdown could just as easily be the tournament final. Both sides go into the game knowing that a false start could prove fatal in what is a fiercely competitive section. With their vociferous fans behind them, the Golden Eaglets will hope to land a telling blow on one of their direct rivals for the title, while their opponents will no doubt display the will to win that typifies all Germany sides, no matter what the age category.

The opening gambit
"We respect all our rivals but we're going to Nigeria to win the tournament. Reaching the final isn't enough for me and I'm not alone in thinking that. I'm pretty sure the coaches of Brazil, Germany and Nigeria would tell you the same thing," Argentina coach Jose Luis Brown.