The destiny of 24 qualifying teams for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 will be decided on Sunday 5 April (20.00h local time and CET) in the ancient environs of the Luxor Temple. FIFA vice-president and Chairman of the Organising Committee of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Jack A. Warner will attend the draw at the stunning 3,500 year old temple on the banks of the Nile in Luxor, southern Egypt.
The draw will determine the fixtures for the group stage of the competition, which will be played in Alexandria, Cairo, Ismailia, Port Said and Suez from 24 September to 16 October 2009. Hosts Egypt, European champions Germany and South American champions Brazil are the only three seeded teams.
With geographic and sporting criteria in mind and to also help maintain the FIFA principle of no two teams from the same confederation being drawn to the same group, the names of the 24 qualified teams have been divided into four pots with six teams each.
The FIFA Organising Committee has approved a request of the Egyptian Local Organising Committee to seed and assign to a particular venue the host along with the European and South American champions, as only European and South American teams have emerged as champions in the history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In order to identify these three seeded teams, they have been placed in different coloured balls in their respective pots.
Pot 1: Egypt (seeded), Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil (seeded)
Pot 2: Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Costa Rica, USA, Honduras,
Pot 3: UAE, Uzbekistan, Korea Republic, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Tahiti,
Pot 4: Germany (seeded), Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, England
During the draw, those 24 teams will then be divided into six groups of four.
A rich history
The FIFA U-20 World Cup is not only the second oldest FIFA competition, but with 24 participating teams, it is also jointly second-largest together with the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The tournament this year returns to the African continent for the first time in ten years with Nigeria the most recent host. The only other African nation to play the role of host was Tunisia in 1977 for the inaugural edition, making Egypt 2009 a return to the tournament's birthplace.
The hopes and dreams of Egypt's massive football support will be with the host nation who will be endeavouring to claim their first FIFA tournament victory. Should they manage to do so, they would repeat the feat of Portugal (1991) and Argentina (2001) who claimed the coveted prize on home turf. It would also be one step beyond the achievements of any African team with both Ghana and Nigeria having twice finished runners-up.
The tournament has long been a breeding ground for future FIFA World Cup stars to make a first impression on the international stage. Such luminaries as Diego Maradona in the competition's fledgling era, through to modern giants of the game such as Lionel Messi, Kaka, Thierry Henry and 2007 golden-boy Sergio Aguero are all graduates of the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
A new name could well be etched onto the trophy at the 16 October final with a number of teams stating their credentials in qualifying combined with the fact that reigning and six-time champions Argentina failed to qualify making the tournament as wide open as ever.
Having appeared at every tournament bar one, Brazil will inevitably be strong contenders that many will wish to avoid in the draw, having won on four occasions, mostly recently in 2003. Continental brethren, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, the latter competing at their first FIFA tournament, are all set to provide strong competition having seen off Argentina in the qualifying process.
Another debuting will be minnows Tahiti who will represent Oceania having shocked onlookers to qualify and be the first Pacific island nation to appear at the tournament.
Representing CONCACAF will be group winners United States and Honduras, champions Costa Rica plus Trinidad and Tobago, all of whom will be keen to put on a strong showing.
The European competitors are well credentialed with Germany the reigning European champions edging Italy in the final. Add to that Spain, who has a magnificent record at the tournament, Czech Republic runners-up at Canada 2007, plus England and Hungary.
Asia will be well-represented with shock qualifying winners United Arab Emirates, runners-up Uzbekistan, as well as Australia and Korea Republic.
Finally, to the African continent, whose competitors many will be no doubt happy to avoid given their strong track record, especially in what will be relatively familiar surroundings. African Champions Ghana and fellow-finalists Cameroon will be joined by Nigeria and South Africa. Last, but by no means least, is Egypt who will present a challenge to any opponent, roared on as they will be, by a large and fervent support.
With that in mind, make sure you log on to FIFA.com this Sunday to discover what is in store for the 24 hopefuls.