In the even-looking Group B, the opening round of games features a meeting of two sides with plenty of pedigree in international youth football, both of whom have high hopes for this FIFA U-20 World Cup. Indeed Portugal and Uruguay will square off at the Estadio Pascual Guerrero in Cali, knowing a win would be an important first step towards reaching the next round.
Winners of the 1989 and 1991 editions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Portugal’s class of 2011 have a weighty burden of history on their shoulders. Nor do the Lusitanians look like they will have an easy ride, having failed to convince at the 2009/10 UEFA European U-19 Championship, despite securing qualification for Colombia 2011. They were subsequently unable to negotiate their group at June’s Toulon Tournament and only finished third, behind Mexico and Panama, at a recent warm-up competition. However, coach Ilidio Vale remains confident his team have prepared well and will grow in stature as Colombia 2011 progresses.
Though they have yet to win the global U-20 crown, Uruguay can point to a runners-up finish in 1997 and two further semi-final appearances. La Celeste go into the competition buoyed by second spot at this year’s South American U-20 Championship, where only Brazil finished ahead of them, and by recent successes achieved by the country’s U-17 and senior squads. One negative note is the absence through suspension of the highly promising Adrian Luna, which will further hamper the attacking prowess of a side which scored just ten times in nine matches in qualifying.
4 – This will be the fourth meeting between Portugal and Uruguay at this competition. The South Americans currently have the edge thanks to two wins - in the 1979 quarter-finals and the 1993 group phase - and one draw, which came in the first round at the 1999 event.
Ilidio Vale, Portugal coach: “The team is getting stronger, they’re more competitive and intelligent in their approach to games. But we’re not going to hit our peak until the tournament gets going.”
Juan Verzeri, Uruguay coach: “The recent good results will put more responsibility on our shoulders. It’s a magical time [for Uruguayan football], which spurs us on to work hard. We’ll take it one game at a time, but we want to go as far as we possibly can."