When the draw for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 was completed, many looked to Ghana and England to be the teams to challenge for the summit of Group D. Yet while Black Satellites coach Sellas Tetteh has virtually his full-strength squad at his disposal, England coach Brian Eastick is without his big-name players for the tournament, due to a combination of club commitments and injuries. Therefore, expect Uruguay to have a big say in this group.
The South American hopefuls have a pedigree in this competition, having finished in the top four on four separate occasions, and they qualified in style as the leading scorers in a competitive South American section. Uzbekistan are also set to provide uncompromising opposition for the three other teams in the group, and a team who defeated China PR and Korea Republic en route to the Asian qualifying final should not be underestimated.
The matches (all kick-offs in local time)
Ghana - Uzbekistan, Ismailia, 26 September; 18:45
England - Uruguay, Ismailia, 26 September; 21:30
Uruguay - Uzbekistan, Ismailia, 29 September; 18:45
Ghana - England, Ismailia, 29 September, 21:30
Uzbekistan - England, Suez, 2 October; 21:30
Uruguay - Ghana, Ismailia, 2 October, 21:30
How they qualified
Ghana: Winners of the CAF African Youth Championship Rwanda 2009.
Uzbekistan: Runners-up of the AFC U-19 Championship United Arab Emirates 2008.
England: Third-place finish in Group B of the UEFA U-19 European Championship Czech Republic 2008.
Uruguay: Third-place finish at the South American U-20 Venezuela 2009.
The majority of the action of Group D takes place in Ismailia, a tranquil city of 750,000, which prides itself on its mangoes. It is located on the west bank of the Suez Canal, halfway between Port Said to the north and Suez to the south. It is approximately a 90-minute car drive from Cairo. The matches will be played at the home of Ismailia SC, the first Egyptian club to win a continental title when they won the CAF Champions League in 1969. Only one game in the group takes place away from Ismaila, namely the meeting between Uzbekistan and England in Suez.
The crunch match: England-Uruguay
This match will not only set the tone for both teams, but will also go a long way in determining the outcome of the group. Uruguay go in as favourites and also have history on their side. England have never beaten South American opposition at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in five previous attempts, managing just four draws and one defeat.
Uruguay, meanwhile, have avoided defeat against European opponents at the FIFA U-20 World Cup since 1991, when they were brushed aside 6-0 by Spain. Since then they have chalked up three victories and four draws against representatives from UEFA. This includes consecutive draws in the last three meetings: against France in the 1997 quarter-finals, which La Celeste won on penalties, Portugal in 1999 and Spain in 2007.
The two teams have also met before at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, back in 1991. Their 0-0 draw in the final match of the first round sealed their elimination, while Spain and Syria progressed.
The opening gambit
"Sometimes when you're in such a difficult group, you have to work very hard and it brings the best out of the team. I like the balance of the team we have and we are going to fine-tune them to get what we want." Sellas Tetteh, Ghana coach.