Duo eye successful return

Croatia and Saudi Arabia will be determined to make a strong start to their Group D campaign by winning their opener at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Given that neither side has made it to this tournament for a while - 12 years for the Europeans and eight in their adversaries' case - both will be keen to impress.

The match
Croatia-Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Sunday 31 July, 18.00 (local time)

The stakes
Croatia will be aiming to surpass their performance on their only previous appearance, at Nigeria 1999, when they reached the Round of 16 only to exit at the hands of a Ronaldinho-inspired Brazil. They have the oldest coach at this year’s tournament in Ivan Grnja, who will looking to draw on his experienced midfield pairing of Filip Ozobic and Zvonko Pamic, who play their football in Russia and Germany respectively.  

Saudi Arabia have more modest aims, having never qualified from the group stage in six previous attempts. At Khalid Al Koroni’s disposal are a number of players who played an important role in the team’s qualification for the tournament, including midfielder Abdullah Otayf and danger man Fahad Al Johani, though the recent injury to Mohamed Al Barnawi is a serious setback.

The stat
9 - The number of successive FIFA U-20 World Cup games that Saudi Arabia have played without winning. Their last victory came on 22 February 1989, when they beat Portugal 3-0 in what remains their biggest triumph at the tournament.

The words
Ivan Grnja, Croatia coach: “Just taking part in the U-20 World Cup in Colombia is a great achievement for a small country like ours. We’ve won some respect and proved that our young players are very talented. I’m proud and happy that Croatia are back in the mix after 12 years."

Khalid Al Koroni, Saudi Arabia coach: “Our playing style is basically to hold onto the ball in the middle of the park and keep the goal covered at all times. [Abdullah] Otayf covers every blade of grass and he’s a vital cog in linking our defence and attack."