The FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 comes to Medellin this Friday with the first Group F contest between European giants England and AFC U-19 champions Korea DPR. The game is something of an unknown quantity, and with the result in doubt, either side would be relieved if they made it through with three points.
No one would suggest that English football is in poor shape, but the fact remains that England have yet to record major success in a FIFA U-20 World Cup. In seven attempts they have never bettered the third-place finish they managed in Australia back in 1993, and in the last edition in Egypt they went out after the group stages, having taken just one point from their three games. Coach Brian Eastick can draw on the experience of the six players who were part of the England side that qualified for Colombia with a semi-final finish at last year’s UEFA U-19 European Championship.
Korea DPR, meanwhile, are making only their second appearance at the premier youth championship, but they managed it in some style, winning the AFC U-19 Championship last year and beating a number of more fancied teams like Australia, Korea Republic and Iraq in the process. Coach Jo Tong Sop will be looking to keep the surprises coming.
10 – The number of FIFA U-20 World Cup games that England have played without winning since their 1-0 victory over Mexico in 1997. Korea DPR are yet to claim three points from a contest at the tournament, with two draws and a loss from their only previous appearance in 2007.
“At this level I think we all agree that any opponent is going to be tough. Argentina are candidates, there’s no doubt. They’ve got a strong team, but Mexico are good, too, and we can’t ignore Korea DPR. Our boys will give everything they’ve got, and if we get to the Round of 16 anything is possible,” England coach, Brian Eastick