Reigning champions Germany will begin their defence against Korea DPR at the Dynamo Stadium on Friday, but kicking off proceedings in Group C will be Switzerland and Mexico, both of whom have high hopes of progressing.
Korea DPR v Germany
Moscow (Dynamo), 18 August, 19:00 local time
"The Germans were champions last time round and are definitely the strongest side in the group," Korea DPR coach Kwang Sok Choe told FIFA.com on his arrival in Moscow. "We're not scared of any of our opponents, though. It will be a great game and a terrific experience for our team."
The AFC runners-up showed their potential in the qualification tournament and almost pulled off a major surprise against the mighty Chinese in the final. Discipline and organisation are the watchwords of a side that likes to get forward at every opportunity, and the North Koreans will certainly need to draw on all their resources against an imposing Germany side.
The reigning champions have never failed to win an opening game at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship and, dauntingly for Korea DPR, they have never lost to Asian opposition at the tournament. Japan were their victims at Canada 2002, and at Thailand 2004 the relentless Europeans put the hosts to the sword before defeating China in the final.
Nevertheless, coach Maren Meinert is paying no attention to what the history books say. "It won't be easy against Korea and we'll need to be patient," she warned. "They're very disciplined both technically and tactically."
The Germans showed their pedigree just a matter of weeks ago when they stormed to the UEFA U-19 Women's European Championship title in Switzerland. The challenge now facing Meinert is to successfully blend the youthful promise of that side with the experience of the team that triumphed at Thailand 2004: "Our main concern is the way that we perform," explained the German coach. "We want to keep on improving and stay faithful to our system. The important thing is not how our opponents play, but how well we do our job."
Switzerland v Mexico
Moscow (Dynamo), 18 August, 16:00 local time
Mexico return to the FIFA U-20 Women's World Championship after a disappointing showing at Canada 2002 , where they failed to pick up a single point. The Mexicans are confident it will be a different story this time, though, as coach Leonardo Cuellar explained: "We've got our feet on the ground but are determined to raise the profile of the women's game. The opening game will set the tone for the rest of the tournament and will be vital to our overall objective of getting into the next round."
A draw and a win over hosts Canada in the qualifiers raised expectations in the squad, only for them to be lowered again following a recent 4-2 reverse to France. "That result gave the players a taste of what the tournament will be like," said Cuellar. "They're a little bit uncertain right now, but still confident of their abilities and very keen to get started." As for opening-day rivals Switzerland, Cuellar is aware of the threat they pose, having knocked out England in the UEFA qualifying tournament. "They're one of Europe's pleasant surprises," he remarked.
This is Switzerland's first appearance at the finals, and coach Claudio Taddei is under no illusions about the mammoth task facing them in Group C. That said, and despite favourable reports compiled on the Mexicans by the Swiss team's 'spy', he is hopeful of starting the campaign with a good result on Friday. He said: "We prepared for the Mexico game by playing two friendlies with Argentina, and although they were tough games, we came away with two wins."
With only 1,000 registered players to call on, even reaching the finals represents a magnificent achievement for the country. The upwardly mobile Swiss want more, however. "We're in good form right now and couldn't be more motivated," warned Taddei.