The presence of the hosts guarantees passion and thrills galore in an intriguing Group A at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009. Roared on by their boisterous fans, Egypt will go to the limit and beyond in their efforts to reach the knockout stages. "The entire nation expects us to do well at this tournament," confirmed coach Miroslav Soukup after the group stage draw.
However, that will be a big ask for the Egyptians, as they have landed in a formidable section with Paraguay and Italy, the runners-up in the South American and European championships respectively. That makes it doubly important for the FIFA U-20 World Cup hosts to start with a win in the opening match against Trinidad and Tobago. No team from the Caribbean island nation has ever won a game at a FIFA finals tournament, and the Soca Warriors' up-and-coming youngsters consequently rate as underdogs in Group A.
The matches (all kick-offs local time)
Egypt-Trinidad and Tobago, Alexandria, 24 September, 20:00
Paraguay-Italy, Cairo, 25 September, 16:00
Italy-Trinidad and Tobago, Cairo, 28 September, 18:45
Egypt-Paraguay, Cairo, 28 September, 21:30
Trinidad and Tobago-Paraguay, Cairo, 1 October, 21:30
Italy-Egypt, Cairo, 1 October, 21:30
How they qualified
Egypt: Qualified automatically as hosts
Trinidad and Tobago: Fourth at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship 2009 on home soil
Paraguay: Runners-up at the South American U-20 Championship 2009 in Venezuela
Italy: Runners-up at the UEFA U-19 European Championship 2008 in the Czech Republic
The opening match at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2009 between hosts Egypt and Trinidad and Tobago takes place in the imposing surroundings of the 80,000 capacity Egyptian Army Stadium in Alexandria. At just over four million inhabitants, the Mediterranean port is the second-biggest city in North Africa after Cairo. Founded by legendary scholar-general Alexander the Great in 332 BC, Alexandria's famous library made the city the intellectual powerhouse of the ancient world.
The remaining Group A fixtures are split between Cairo International Stadium (capacity 72,668) and Al Salam Stadium (22,000 capacity) in Cairo. The Egyptian capital ranks as the biggest city in the Arabic world. Historic Cairo was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site some 30 years ago. The pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and a huge number of world-famous attractions are located nearby.
The crunch match: Paraguay-Italy, Cairo, 25 September, 16:00
The runners-up in the South American and European championships go head-to-head on the first matchday in the most eagerly-awaited of the Group A fixtures. In no fewer than seven previous appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup finals, Paraguay's best placing to date was fourth in 2001. Italy are contesting FIFA's second-biggest and second-oldest tournament for the fifth time. However, in five previous meetings with South American opponents, the Azzurrini have won only once.
The opening gambit
"We intend to be difficult opponents, with a good balance in the team. It would certainly rate as an unwelcome surprise if we failed to survive the group. I'm the kind of guy who's always setting targets and dreaming dreams. Winning the World Cup would realise my greatest professional dream," Adrian Coria, Paraguay coach.