New Zealand steeled for Portugal test
© Foto-net

The teams in Group C get their first taste of action in the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 on Monday, with Portugal and New Zealand kicking things off in the early afternoon.

The game
Portugal v New Zealand, Toronto, 2 July, 14:15 (local time)

The stakes
On paper, Portugal and Mexico appear firm favourites to progress from Group C. For several years now, the Portuguese have been a major global player at this level. The latest crop of talent revolves around experienced midfielder Bruno Gama, but he and his colleagues will have to remain wary of opponents who proved their worth in the Oceanian Zone qualifiers and are looking forward to their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The players
New Zealand playmaker Chris James had to return home for personal reasons a few days before the competition began, and it remains to be seen whether the Kiwis have what it takes to cope without him. For their part, Portugal will choose from a full squad.

The past
This will be Portugal's 30th FIFA U-20 World Cup match, and their record so far reads an impressive 17 victories, four draws and eight defeats. Tournament champions in 1989 and 1991, they will be eager to go all the way once again, whereas New Zealand are newcomers to major international tournaments at this level, having been the first to profit from Australia's switch to the AFC.

The birthdays
A win for New Zealand would be the perfect present for midfielder Cole Peverley, who turns 19 at midnight.

The words
"We mustn't underestimate New Zealand just because they don't boast a glittering record. If they're in Canada at all, it's because they have qualities they can bring to the game. We're going to concentrate on this match before we think about the rest of the tournament." Zequinha, Portugal striker.

"Portugal are a great team and we'll have to play the match of our lives if we want to get a result. We're going to have to defend like we've never defended before. If we're focused enough defensively and seize our chance when it comes, I don't see why we can't win." Craig Henderson, New Zealand midfielder.