It was an evening of enthusiasm, full of happy faces. Anticipation for the tournament was in the air as the eagerly-awaited draw for the groups at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2013 was made on Monday evening, live from the banks of the Bosporus in the Grand Tarabya Hotel in Istanbul. Representatives of all the participating teams agreed the tournament is set to be an exciting, high-quality show full of colour and passion that will thrill football fans from 21 June onwards.
Everyone in the host nation of Turkey's camp seems to be eagerly awaiting the start of the showpiece event. Feyyaz Ucar's youngsters find themselves in Group C, pitted against Colombia, El Salvador and Australia, with the coach describing the task awaiting them as difficult but not insurmountable. "I am satisfied with our group. Colombia and El Salvador will be our toughest opponents," he said, before turning his attentions to the event as a whole. "This tournament is an excellent opportunity for fans to meet the global football stars of the future, as well as helping my country to forge a great reputation for itself."
For his part, Australian coach Paul Okon was in ebullient mood. "Each opponent will be tough, but we're pleased that we have Turkey in our group – that will be a real challenge for my players. The bigger the opposition, the more we can achieve. We can see that Turkey are coming into this tournament with real anticipation," he concluded, and indeed this enthusiasm and fascination seemed to apply to everyone involved throughout the evening.
Top teams set to meet in Istanbul
"Turkey is an incredible footballing nation," said Willy Sagnol, a man who knows international football inside-out. The former French international and current head of youth national teams for his country's FA was particularly pleased that the U-20 version of Les Bleus would be playing in what he described as the "fantastic city" of Istanbul, even though they have been drawn against Spain in Group A.
"We're getting to be good friends with the Spanish," he said with a wry smile to FIFA.com, referring to the fact that the countries' respective full international teams are about to meet for the second time in qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. "Any tournament we take part in, we want to win," was the former Bayern Munich fullback's conclusion.
Despite travelling to Turkey as reigning European champions, the Spanish were a little more circumspect. "We've been given the toughest draw. France and USA are very strong, and you can never rule out the African teams," said co-coach Juan Carlos Gomez Pelado.
Spectacular football on the agenda
England's coach Peter Taylor seemed a lot happier with his team's draw, which will see them playing in Antalya and Bursa in Group E alongside Chile, Iraq and the CAF champions. "You get the feeling here that it's going to be a really big, important tournament," said Taylor. "I think this summer's going to provide us with a lot of good attacking football. We'll be working hard on scoring goals and hopefully making ourselves tough for our opponents. We're really keen to get off to a good start and if we manage that, we could go a long way."
"Our objective is always to win our next match," said a similarly optimistic Chile co-coach Leonardo Zamora. "We need to develop a winning mentality. The fact that Turkey is a wonderful country that is crazy about football will make this into a great tournament." Iraqi coach Hakeem Shakir, meanwhile, had mixed emotions, describing his team's group as "very strong and very tough".
A mixture of pride and understatement
Greek coach Konstantinos Tsanas is looking forward to seeing plenty of passionate Turkish football fans and also some high-class football. "Whenever we get into any tournament, we know that there will only be strong teams and worthy opponents," he said. "We're hoping to reach the knockout stages but for us it's already an achievement just to be here."
Debutants Cuba are also fiercely proud simply to be taking part. "Our rivals are all strong but so are we," said official team representative Raul Gonzalez. "Our main aim will be to prove to everyone that we can compete on this level. We want to earn ourselves some respect on the international stage."
'A dream destination'
Mexico's coach highlighted a very interesting aspect of the draw which saw his much-vaunted team placed in Group D alongside Greece, Paraguay and an African side. "It's great – it means we'll be up against teams with totally different footballing styles," he said. "It means that tactics will be crucial – I can hardly wait for summer to come around!"
Uruguay's director of sport Juan Verzeri made his wishes clear, saying: "I hope it turns out to be a footballing fiesta", while Enrique Landaida, Paraguay's coordinator for youth national teams, described Turkey as a "dream destination". All of which makes it patently clear that everyone is keen for the Turkey 2013 to finally get under way and to be a part of a phenomenon that will create boundless excitement throughout the country.