As the sun slowly dipped below the horizon on Monday 26 August 2013, the contenders for the FIFA U–17 World Cup UAE 2013 discovered the names of their group opponents in the preliminary draw, held in the Al-Saqr conference suite at Fairmont Bab El Bahr Hotel.
The draw ceremony began at exactly 19.00 local time, and featured video clips introducing the United Arab Emirates, the host cities and players who have starred at the tournament in the past. H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Culture, Youth & Community Development and chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, and Rafael Salguero, Chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U–17 World Cup, introduced the draw in short speeches. The ceremony concluded with folk dances performed by local artists, reflecting the history and cultural treasures of the host nation.
H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan welcomed the guests and said "This tournament will be one of a kind for the players and for all football fanatics. It will be a unique and fun experience for everyone. The tournament will bring together people from all around the world. Sport brings people together and has the power to unite people of all backgrounds, of all colours, all races ... of all shapes and all sizes."
I hope to see stars out of this tournament which will shine in the sky of football.
Meanwhile, Rafael Salguero said that "Football unites people all over the world as we can see right now here in this room. Representatives of at least 24 nations are here tonight, attending the first official step of the main event, the Official Draw for the FIFA U17 World Cup. It’s great to see you all here and I wish you all a great evening and I hope to see stars out of this tournament which will shine in the sky of football and enrich our game even more."
After the words of introduction, the teams were divided into four pots for the draw, with the continental champions from Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, North and Central America and the Caribbean all seeded, and the host nation assigned the seeded position as team one in Group A. The teams were then drawn into six groups of four.
In Group A, the United Arab Emirates will meet Honduras, Brazil and Slovakia. The opening match at 17.00 local time on 17 October sees the Brazil and Slovakia face off at Mohammed Bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi.
CONCACAF champions Mexico start the defence of the trophy they won two years ago on home soil in Group F against Nigeria, Iraq and Sweden. This group is based at Al Ain stadium, with the Mexicans opening their campaign on 19 October against Nigeria.
Nigeria and Brazil, the most successful nations in tournament history, are once again present at the 2013 edition, ensuring a spectacular tournament for the fans. Nigeria, as aforementioned, were drawn into Group F, with Brazil seeking to lay the foundations for their fourth triumph at this level in Group A against the hosts.
The 52-match FIFA U–17 World Cup UAE 2013 will be played between 17 October and 8 November in the six host cities of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Sharjah and Al Ain.
Group stage draw for the FIFA U–17 World Cup UAE 2013:
Group A (Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah): United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Brazil, Slovakia
Group B (Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi): Uruguay, New Zealand, Côte d'Ivoire, Italy
Group C (Fujairah, Sharjah): Croatia, Morocco, Panama, Uzbekistan
Group D (Sharjah, Fujairah): Tunisia, Venezuela, Russia, Japan
Group E (Dubai, Al Ain): Canada, Austria, Iran, Argentina
Group F (Al Ain, Dubai): Mexico, Nigeria, Iraq, Sweden