Hosts face CONMEBOL champs, France meet Spain
© AFP

Monday evening’s eagerly-awaited group stage draw for the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 in the ballroom of the Grand Tarabya Hotel in Istanbul delivered an emotion-laden overture to this summer’s global showdown in Turkey.

The 24 competing teams learned the names of their opponents and the host cities for their group stage matches, including the pairing for the opening match on 21 June at 18.00h local time, when Cuba will meet Korea Republic in Kayseri.

The draw, which was made in sight of the brand new FIFA U-20 World Cup Trophy, for the six preliminary stage groups threw up any number of interesting and intriguing clashes. Hosts Turkey face El Salvador, Colombia and Australia in Group C. However, it the drawing of Spain, France and USA in Group A drew gasps from the neutrals in the audience.

A colourful and varied programme, shot through with typically Turkish passion and enthusiasm, proved a spectacular treat for the audience of more than 350 and some 100 accredited media representatives. The one-hour show, expertly presented by much-loved local TV star Defne Samyeli, was a perfect curtain-raiser and appetite-whetter for the 52-match tournament, to be played from 21 June to 13 July in the seven host cities of Antalya, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Kayseri, Rize and Trabzon.

"We will show the beauty of our country and our love for football," said Local Organising Committee (LOC) president Servet Yardimci, making no secret of his eager anticipation for the 19th edition of FIFA’s second most important tournament. FIFA vice-president Jim Boyce, chair of the FIFA Organising Committee for the U-20 World Cup, was equally enthusiastic: "Football is a wonderful sport for bringing people together. It will be wonderful to see all 24 teams come together here in Turkey."

After popular Turkish band Gece performed a rousing rendition of the official song of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013, Yildizlar Buradan Yukseliyor (The Stars Rise From Here), FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke took to the stage for the draw ceremony itself.

He was assisted in the highlight segment of the evening by four famous names from Turkish footballing history: renowned coaches and former Turkey bosses Fatih Terim and Mustafa Denizli, who teamed up with former world-class striker and Turkey’s all-time top scorer Hakan Sukur, and ex-keeper Rustu Recber, the nation's most-capped international.

FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 group stage draw:

GROUP A (Istanbul, Kayseri): France, CAF, USA, Spain.
GROUP B (Kayseri, Istanbul): Cuba, Korea Republic, CAF, Portugal
GROUP C (Trabzon, Rize, Gaziantep): Turkey, El Salvador, Colombia, Australia
GROUP D (Gaziantep, Trabzon): Mexico, Greece, Paraguay, CAF
GROUP E (Antalya, Bursa): Chile, CAF Champions, England, Iraq
GROUP F (Bursa, Antalya): OFC Champions, Uzbekistan, Uruguay, Croatia

For the definition of the three positions called CAF, a seperate draw will take place at the conclusion of the CAF African Youth Championship on 30 March in Oran, Algeria, to determine which group the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams from CAF will play in.