Matchday one in Group E of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 sees the two group favourites go head-to-head, as Spain and USA battle it out in what could be a decisive game. Both sets of players, as well as the fans in Kano, are raring to go.
La Roja are undoubtedly one of the title contenders, but the runners-up at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 will need to raise their game after struggling to qualify for Nigeria 2009. Three goalless draws at the UEFA European Championship, which doubled as the qualifiers for Nigeria, left them third in their group and thus out of the running for the continental title.
The United States - the only country to have qualified for all 12 previous FIFA U-17 World Cups - will be intent on a strong performance this time round. To qualify, the Stars and Stripes finished top of a group which comprised Honduras, Cuba and Canada, and Wilmer Cabrera's team will be aiming to at least match the fourth-place finish achieved at New Zealand 1999.
22 - The number of goals Spain scored on their way to third place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Egypt 1997. This was a tournament record, and was largely down to La Roja’s 13-0 drubbing of New Zealand, the competition’s biggest ever win. Can they replicate that goalscoring prowess in Nigeria?
"We want to showcase the quality football we have here in the US. We know Spain are one of the favourites, but we'll bring our A-game to the table and put it up to them. That's the only way we can win." Wilmer Cabrera, USA coach.
"We're still disappointed with our performance at the European Championship, as we didn't deserve to go out so soon. Now the players want to prove that it was just a slip-up by playing their best football in Nigeria. The USA will be tough opponents, but if we play like we know we can, we can get the win." Gines Melendez, Spain coach.