All eyes on Egypt this week
Posted: 21 September 2009 Time: 9:05 am
With the Fifa Under-20 World Cup kicking off on Thursday, all eyes will be on hosts Egypt as they open proceedings in a Group A match.
The presence of the hosts guarantees passion and thrills galore as, roared on by their boisterous fans, Egypt will go to the limit and beyond in their efforts to reach the knockout stages. “The entire nation expects us to do well at this tournament,” coach Miroslav Soukup said after the group stage draw. However, that will be a big question for the Egyptians as they have landed in a formidable section with Paraguay and Italy, the runners-up in the South American and European championships respectively. That makes it doubly important for the hosts to start with a win in the opening match against Trinidad and Tobago. No team from the Caribbean island nation has ever won a game at a Fifa finals tournament, and the Soca Warriors' up-and-coming youngsters consequently rate as underdogs in Group A. The opening match takes place in the imposing surroundings of the 80 000 capacity Egyptian Army Stadium in Alexandria. At just over four million inhabitants, the Mediterranean port is the second-biggest city in north Africa after Cairo. The remaining Group A fixtures are split between Cairo International Stadium (capacity 72 668) and Al Salam Stadium (22 000 capacity) in Cairo. The crunch match in this group is expected to be the Paraguay vs Italy encounter in Cairo on September 25 (Friday) when the runners-up in the South American and European championships go head-to-head. In no fewer than seven previous appearances at the Fifa U-20 World Cup finals, Paraguay’s best placing to date was fourth in 2001. Italy are contesting Fifa’s second-biggest and second-oldest tournament for the fifth time. However, in five previous meetings with South American opponents, the Azzurrini have won only once.