FIFA U20 World Cup Canada 2007

FIFA U20 World Cup Canada 2007

30 June - 22 July

FIFA U-20 World Cup 2007

The shape of things

After a gala evening in Toronto on Saturday night, all the first round matches are now known. Join for a breakdown of all the action, from a mouth-watering contest between the USA and Brazil in Ottawa, a tantalising Mexico - Portugal tilt Group C tilt in Toronto and a Spain - Uruguay tangle in Burnaby.

Group A: Home cookin'
(Toronto, Edmonton)
Austria coach Paul Gludovatz quipped upon seeing the draw, "We are the only 'A' surrounded by three 'C's - we are already outsiders!" For a tiny nation returning to a U-20 World Cup for the first time in 23 years, the boss might just have a point. But with a handy win over Belgium to book their passage to Canada and the startling attacking exploits of Erwin Hoffer, the Austrian youngsters may yet have reason to smile. Spirits are high with the hosts, too, as this summer's tournament is expected to be the country's largest-ever single-sport event. And with a captain like Newcastle United's David Edgar steering the ship, the Canucks - led by former international star and three-time U-20 finals boss, Dale Mitchell, may just better their previous best finish in the category when their reached the last eight at UAE 2003. Debutants Congo , for their part, will be no pushovers as they pulled off quite a coup to finish as African champions back in February. And Chile , fourth-place in the South American qualifiers, will be banking on the attacking output of free-scoring Colo Colo starlet Alexis Sanchez.

Group B: Spanish princes reign
(Burnaby, Victoria)
Giants at the youth level, Spain will be the team to beat in the group. "We are one of the top five teams in the world and we can definitely finish as champions," FA vice-president Vicente Munoz said after the draw was made. Considering classy players like Alberto Bueno and Gerard Pique are in the side, such bold assertions may be a sight more than mere talk too. With an undefeated run through the European qualifiers, who would deny La Furia Roja their favourites tag? Uruguay - back to a FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time in eight years - will have a big point to prove. And their third-place finish in the South American qualifiers will have the pundits tittering. Asian debutants Jordan and will join Zambia - who have failed to score in their six previous matches at FIFA competitions - as the group's decided outsiders Group C: A tasty affair
(Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton)
The true pearl of the opening stages will pit Mexico - a team built of the U-17 world-beaters from Peru 2005 - take on one-time greats Portugal . The Mexicans won their CONCACAF qualifying group on home soil with some devilish performances from standouts Carlos Vela and Giovanni dos Santos of Barcelona. The Lusitanians, for their part, qualified on the strength of midfield sensation Bruno Gama and three straight draws in the UEFA qualifiers. African hopefuls Gambia , who will be playing in their first U-20 world finals, climbed all the way to the semi-finals of the African qualifiers. The lone Oceania contenders, New Zealand , will be hoping to ride the orchestrations of Fulham and senior Kiwi Chris James to some shocking results in Canada, but arrive with modest aims.

Group D: Enter the entertainers
(Montreal, Ottawa)
One of the talking points of any major international football tournament is Brazil - the champions of romantic football. And, with the possible challenge of a highly professional, Freddy Adu-inspired USA , the Selecao are considered runaway favourites to take top spot in the group. Led by the striking exploits of Internacional's Alexandre Pato, Nelson Rodrigues' young side scored 20 goals en route to being crowned South American champions, and their four U-20 world titles are second-best only to rivals and neighbours Argentina. Korea Republic - a regular fixture at this age level - struggled to qualify for Canada after high expectations, while Poland are a sturdy side boasting what may well be on of the top strikers of the finals in Dawid Janczyk of Legia Warsaw - compared by many to Juventus and Poland legend Zbigniew Boniek. Two past semi-final appearances (1979 and 1983) will also have the Europeans hoping history repeats itself in Canada.

Group E: Argy bargy
(Ottawa, Montreal)
Argentina are the undisputed heavyweight champions of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Their five titles are second to none, and the memory of Lionel Messi's artistry in a championship run last time out in Holland in 2005 is still fresh in the memory. Finishing runners-up to Brazil in the South American qualifiers will have some doubting the ability of this new generation, but opponents underestimate the Albiceleste at their peril. The Czechs will arrive in Canada as outsiders, but talented technicians led by the creative spark of Marek Strestik. Korea DPR , shock champions of Asia, will be looking to make a mark in Canada while Panama - playing in their third straight FIFA U-20 World Cup and led by the country's best-ever player in freshman coach Julio Dely Valdes - they will be hoping to pick up their first win in the competition.

Group F: Wide open
(Victoria, Burnaby)
With Asian runners-up and perennial powers Japan leading the pack, Group F will be a tricky bunch and all sides will be fancying their chances of progressing to the knockout rounds. Scotland are led by former national team great Archie Gemmill - whose goal against Holland at the FIFA World Cup in Argentina in 1978 still ranks among the best-ever scored - and he will be keen to see the young Tartans through. With a huge Scottish ex-pat and immigrant population in Canada, the side will not want for support. Nigeria - runners-up from Africa and finalists at Netherlands 2005 - will have to overcome the loss of such talents as Jon Obi Mikel and Taye Taiwo and put faith in a new generation of baby Eagles. Costa Rica , coached by will be making a return to the U-20 event after missing out on the last two instalments. Geovanny Alfaro's side will be hoping Alajuelense starlet Jean Carlos Solorzano keeps scoring the way he did in an impressive qualifying campaign.