With just two days to go until the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, New Zealand has once more proven to be a great host.
Crowds of more than 300,000 over the 50 matches thus far have flocked into the stadiums, where they were treated to superb attacking football. Outstanding individual performances created spectacular games involving all 24 teams, including the three newcomers from Fiji, Myanmar and Senegal. Sunday’s final between Brazil and Serbia will be another highlight in front of a sell-out crowd at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland. The third and fourth-place match will be decided between Senegal and Mali just a few hours ahead of the main showpiece.
“After 1999 and 2008, when the country hosted the FIFA U-17 World Cup and FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup respectively, New Zealand has once more impressed with an excellent staging," said Hany Abo Rida, speaking after today’s closing meeting of the Organising Committee of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which he chaired. "We have all received a very warm Kiwi welcome and the teams have enjoyed the conditions in all the Host Cities – from training grounds, to team hotels, to stadia."
Dave Beeche, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, said: “We have been delighted with the way the New Zealand public has supported this event, with new fans of the game being found all over the country. We have brought together thousands of ex-pat communities, who lit up many matches with their colour and passion for the sport, and we feel confident that this tournament will take football to new heights in what is predominantly a rugby-mad nation.”
The tournament, which kicked off on 30 May, has seen matches played in seven host cities: five on the North Island and two on the South Island. Live and delayed action broadcasts as well as highlights on television, radio, internet or mobile have been placed in 184 territories. Fans all over the world have been following the tournament on social platforms: on the official FIFA Facebook page new likes went up by 726.4% during the group phase alone and on the English FIFA Twitter account follower numbers have grown every week by an average of 56,573 - twice the capacity of North Harbour Stadium. Another impressive number are the 55,000 people brought to FIFA.com via Facebook for the Brazil-Nigeria highlights alone.
Also the FIFA Fan Experience which was presented at the FIFA Corporate Stand at the Queen’s Wharf in Auckland has been a big success, with around 30,000 fans passing through since its opening.
With 44 goals scored in just three days, including a record one-day haul of 28 goals on 1 June the event made a hugely positive start, demonstrating the passion and skill of youth football.
Colin Smith, FIFA's Director of Competitions, believes that the high standard will be maintained on the eagerly awaited final day of action. He said: “We have seen teams with excellent technical and tactical skills playing fast and attacking football. I am convinced that many of these youngsters have great careers ahead of them and that we will see them on the world stage again in future.”