The northern city of Piura is in a state of high excitement ahead of Saturday's opening matches of Group D at the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005, with some locals queuing all night for tickets.

The line for those precious tickets has stretched longer than a kilometre at times as people are desperate to see defending champions Brazil, Gambia, Holland and Qatar in action at the Miguel Grau Stadium.

Holland v Qatar (15:15 local time)
The first game in Piura offers the intriguing prospect of a Dutchman hoping to sink the hopes of his home country as Qatar coach Tini Ruijs is in that curious position of leading a team into battle against the nation of his birth.

He told FIFA.com: "It's a special feeling. You have to beat your own country, but Qatar is my boss and that's what I'll be trying my best to do. I hope to get a good result against Holland, but after that I wish them the best of luck.

"I know the Holland coach Ruud Kaiser very well. He and I are the same age and we used to play in the same position out on the left wing. We have played against each other before and we are good colleagues. We have to win the first match, because it's a very tough group and that would be a big step forward."

Qatar may have one advantage over their group opponents as they play regularly on artificial pitches in Doha. Their preparations have been extensive as they have had 20 friendly matches since June in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Brazil before arriving in Peru with 11 victories to their name.

Midfielder Khalfan Ibrahim Khalfan had a knee operation last month and he is struggling for match fitness, though Ruijs, who rates him as one of the best Qatar players, hopes to introduce him to the action at some stage against Holland.

The Netherlands had several players suffering from the effects of taking anti-malaria tablets earlier in the week, but those problems have been erased now.

Sparta Rotterdam forward Marvin Emnes is the only concern as he suffered a recurrence of his left ankle injury in training and he is a doubtful starter.

Kaiser expects a huge challenge and he said: "Qatar are used to playing in 40 degrees - we are not. For us in Holland, where it is always raining and cold, these conditions are difficult. It's more easy for Qatar because they will be more prepared to play in this heat.

"Normally, people would think we should beat Qatar, but in tournament football, nothing is normal. If everybody just focussed on the next group game against Brazil, we would be at serious risk of losing against Qatar. If anybody loses their first match, it will be very, very hard to qualify from the group, if not impossible."


Brazil v Gambia (18:00 local time)
Brazil are tipped to be the team to beat once again, but coach Nelson Rodrigues demands nothing less than returning home with the trophy they have made their own in recent years.

He said: "Brazil always expects to win and we've been working for two and a half years with this age group, so we are here to keep our title. Everywhere Brazil goes, people expect to see good football so there is an obligation on us to win it."

Many fancy the Netherlands to be their strongest opponents, but Rodrigues said: "We're not thinking about Holland now because our first match is against Gambia. They are the African champions, so it's going to be a hard game."

Brazil were forced into one late change as they arrived in Peru with only two goalkeepers instead of the three required for the tournament, so Joao Carlos Heidemann was drafted in as a third choice stopper in place of defender Geronimo.

Gambia are naturally keeping a largely unchanged squad in place following their triumph at the African U17 Championship at only their second appearance.

Their coach Fred Osam Duodu knows few people expect Gambia to beat Brazil, but the Ghanaian is predicting a shock or two at Peru 2005.

He said: "We have no outstanding players because we play as a team. We are determined to mark a mark and I am confident we can do it. We create lots of chances, so I think we can create lots of surprises also.

"I have worked hard on the psychology of my boys so they do not have any complexes about the teams they will be facing here. They have respect for larger teams and smaller teams... but they do not have any fears."

Duodu insists there will not be a repeat of the ill-discipline which saw five of his men sent-off in a pre-tournament friendly against the United States last month, a game which had to be abandoned because Gambia did not have enough players left to complete the match.

"I have every confidence that they will give a good impression of themselves during this tournament," said Duodu. "After all, we won the Fair Play competition at the African U17 Championship last time.

"Every place we go, anyone will testify that my players have excellent discipline and it was just in this one game where we had some problems with the referee."

Gambia have been on the road since early-August in preparation for the championship, playing a long series of warm-up matches, which included a 2-1 win over the Liverpool youth team and a 2-2 draw with tournament hosts Peru recently.

Duodu says his boys are primed… and the city of  Piura cannot wait to get the party started.