The first matchday in Group A at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009 features an intriguing clash between Paraguay and Italy. The runners-up from South America and Europe face off at the Cairo International Stadium.
Paraguay-Italy, Cairo, Friday 25 September, 16:00 (local time)
In what many observers expect to be the decisive showdown in Group A, both teams will be looking for a positive result in order to avoid undue pressure in the remaining group fixtures. Curiously, it is Paraguay and Italy's first meeting at a FIFA junior-level tournament, despite both nations' long history at the FIFA U-20 World Cup: the South Americans are contesting the trophy for the eighth time, while the Europeans have featured at the finals on four previous occasions. The Italians have met CONMEBOL opponents five times in the past, although Gli Azzurrini won only one and lost the other four of those matches.
"The first game's never easy, and if we're not in good shape on the day, it could end up being costly for us. We're talking about a European team, and they very rarely lose their shape. To have any chance of beating them, we'll have to be just as well-organised, or even better-organised than them,"
Adrian Coria, Paraguay coach.
"It'll definitely be a high-quality tournament. My team face an incredibly tough task. Paraguay are exceptionally well-drilled, and the fact they knocked out reigning world champions Argentina in qualifying shows they're a class act," Francesco Rocca, Italy coach.