Brazil will set out to justify their status as South American champions and tournament favourites when they take on Japan on Saturday in the teams' opening Group B match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009. Japan, who made group-stage exits in their last two tournaments, are looking to cause an upset and set themselves up for a place in the Round of 16.
Only tournament hosts Nigeria can match Brazil's record in the competition, with each country having won three FIFA U-17 World Cups. Nigeria 2009 is therefore a great opportunity for the Seleção to overtake the Golden Eaglets in their own back yard. But Luis Nizzo's team won't have it easy: in addition to negotiating a tough group against teams with different playing styles, they will have to cope with the pressure of winning after seeing their colleagues lose in the U-20 Final in Egypt last week. Their first hurdle will be Japan, an opponent with little renown in the competition, but a dangerous attack. Will things go to form, or can the Japanese produce the first shock of the tournament?
50 - Japan's win percentage in their opening matches at previous FIFA U-17 World Cups. They lost to Ghana in both 1993 and 1995, and defeated USA and Haiti in 2001 and 2007 respectively.
"It's a shame that Brazil didn't win the U-20 title in Egypt, but I hope that my players have been able to take positives from what they saw, in particular how small details can be the difference between winning and losing in the knockout stages. Our first game will be vital," Brazil coach Luis Nizzo.
"Many think we're in a very difficult group, as Brazil and Mexico are former champions. But I always want to test myself against the best, and what better motivation is there than an opener against Brazil?" Japan coach Yutaka Ikeuchi.