By Samindra Kunti
March 16 – The draw for the U20 2017 FIFA World Cup South Korea has paired arch rivals England and Argentina in the group stages. The participants in the finals today found out their group opponents as the 24 balls were drawn in a ceremony in Suwon.
There was a buzz at the Suwon Atrium as Diego Maradona drew England and Argentina together in group A, alongside hosts South Korea and Guinea. The Koreans and Guinea will play the opening match of the tournament. On Saturday 20 May, England will kick-off their campaign against Argentina in Jeonju’s World Cup Stadium. Later this month, the Young Lions will play friendlies against fellow finalists France, Portugal and Senegal in a four-team tournament in Brittany in preparation for the tournament.
“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’,” reacted South Korean 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.”
In Group B, Vanuatu, World Cup debutants, got a baptism of fire with Germany, Mexico and Venezuela as opponents. “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,” said Germany coach Guido Streichsbier 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.”
Reigning U20 African champions Zambia were handed a tough assignment to reach the knockout stages following a pairing alongside Portugal, Costa Rica and Iran in Group C. Last week the junior Chipolopolo won the continental showpiece on home soil when they defeated Senegal in Lusaka in front of buoyant home support. But the World Cup in South Korea will prove a far greater test of their mettle.
Africa’s tough draw was in evidence in group D as well, as South Africa were grouped with Asian champions Japan, Italy and South American champions Uruguay. It is a mountain to climb for the Amajita. The South American top dogs finished runners-up back in 2013.
“All the teams in our group are similarly strong, and we cannot predict what’s going to happen,” said Uruguayan coach Fabian Coito. “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!”
In Group E defending champions and tournament favourites France were drawn with debutants Vietnam, Honduras and New Zealand. Les Bleus will consider this a good draw, with the other contenders all hoping to snatch the second spot.
“It was an interesting draw,” commented 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.”
Finally, Ecuador, USA, Saudi Arabia, Senegal make up Group F in what may well be the tournament’s most open group. “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,” said USA Team Manager Alfonso Cerda.
Following the draw organisers began a ticket sales promotion. Individual ticket prices vary from 7,000 KRW (€5.8) to 50,000 KRW (€41.3) depending on their category, with matches being sold as double-headers, allowing fans to watch two matches with one ticket. For the first time in World Cup history, fans will be able to purchase tickets on their mobiles.
“In addition, fans who have purchased online (PC) or by their mobile phones will be able to choose their delivery method as “Mobile Tickets”, enabling them to go through the ticket inspection with their mobile tickets,” explained a FIFA spokesperson. “However, due to technical restrictions, mobile ticketing will only be provided in Korean Language, mostly targeting local fans.”
The biennial tournament will take place from May 20 and run until June 11, with the final taking place at Suwon’s World Cup Stadium.
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