Reactions as path to glory drawn in Suwon
With all 24 balls drawn and the road to glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 written, all the competing teams will be assessing the challenges that await following the Official Draw.
Before the coaches headed back home to plot their assault on the title, FIFA.com gathered reaction to the hands they have been dealt, while running the rule over the six groups.
Group A:** **Korea Republic, Guinea, Argentina, England
There was an electric buzz around the Suwon Atrium when first Argentina, and then England, were drawn in the same group as the hosts. While Korea Republic and Guinea will play in Match 1 of the tournament, La Albiceleste and the Three Lions will renew a rivalry that featured a memorable clash during 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. That meeting took place in Sapporo, Japan, so now Korean fans will get to see another chapter unfold themselves, as well as facing the pair too.
"There are no easy teams in this group, to say the least - actually I heard people saying this is the so-called ‘Group of Death’,” explained Korea Republic coach Shin Taeyong. “That said, our goal for the tournament remains the same: to reach the quarter-finals at least and see if we can progress beyond that.
“Although the opening match against Guinea is the most important, I think England are the strongest side in this group and of course we cannot underestimate Argentina."
Group B:*** ***Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico
Making their debut appearance at a FIFA tournament, Vanuatu have been dealt a challenging baptism in their first foray on the global stage. Mexico, their opening opponents, are veterans at this level, while Germany faced the last Oceania debutants, Fiji, at New Zealand 2015, leaving them with a chastening 8-1 defeat. Venezuela meanwhile beat South American champions Uruguay 3-0, so certainly cannot be discounted.
"It's not an easy group: I saw that Venezuela were very strong during the South American championship, while Mexico are a very experienced side,” Germany coach Guido Streichsbier said after the draw. “We don't know much about Vanuatu, to be frank, but we'll get to know them when preparing for the finals.
“Our initial goal of the tournament is to reach the last 16 in the first place, and if we manage to adapt to the new surrounding in the Far East, everything will be fine. We did struggle in European qualifying due to the lack of a finishing touch, but hopefully we'll get better."
Group C:*** ***Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica
Crowned African champions on Sunday, Zambia will arrive on a wave of confidence, but an opening encounter with Portugal will certainly be a tough ask. The Europeans, like fellow group opponents Iran, fell at the semi-final stage in their continental qualifiers, but the two-time champions will pose a serious challenge for all. Iran return following a 16-year absence and will be keen to make up for lost time, while Costa Rica – who sneaked a ticket on goal difference – return after missing the last two tournaments.
Group D:*** ***South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay
South American top dogs Uruguay may arrive with the highest pedigree of the Group D quartet, but their margin of superiority is probably by less than you’d expect. Japan will make the decidedly short trip while enjoying their first stint as Asian champions, while both South Africa and Italy reached the Southern African (COSAFA) and European finals. La Celeste, runners-up in 2013, may be seen as one of the favourites, but this group could contain some surprises.
"All the teams in our group are similarly strong, and we cannot predict what's going to happen,” Fabian Coito, Uruguay coach, said. “Amongst them, however, Italy are obviously the toughest in the section. Nevertheless, we are the South American champions and we're full of confidence. If we prepare well in the build-up to the finals I'm confident we can win this World Cup as well!"
Group E:*** ***France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand
Turkey 2013 winners and reigning European champions France stand as a daunting opposition for all in this tournament, so Vietnam – at their first 11-a-side FIFA tournament – will no doubt be cursing their luck somewhat at finding themselves drawn with Les Bleus. Honduras, who impressed in reaching the CONCACAF final earlier this month, will be far from a pushover too, while 2015 hosts and current Oceania champions New Zealand will be intent on causing a few upsets.
"It was an interesting draw,” admitted New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley. “We're up against European champions France, who are very strong, while Vietnam and Honduras are not easy, either. We were the hosts last time out, but we're rather like underdogs or challengers this time around. However, our target is to get out of this group and go on from there.”
Group F:*** ***Ecuador, USA, Saudi Arabia, Senegal
A challenging group to call, with plenty of intriguing encounters in store. USA may enter as the only continental title-holders among the four, but their accompanying trio all, effectively, got to the final of their respective tournaments. Senegal fell at the hands of Zambia, but Saudi Arabia only missed out on the title through penalties. Meanwhile, Ecuador went head-to-head for the cup with Uruguay in South America’s final group game, losing out 2-1. Definitely all to play for.
"Every group is tough, you know, and every team is strong in the World Cup - which means we'll have same chances as all the others of reaching the next round,” USA Team Manager Alfonso Cerda III said. “It was a huge achievement to win the CONCACAF championship for the first time, and I think our strengths came from continuity . We've worked hard as one team, not a group of individuals, and we could make our country proud."