The boys are ready
Egypt is all set to host the 24 teams at the three-week FIFA U20 World Cup
The opening ceremony is scheduled for Thursday 24 September when the host nation Egypt will take on Trinidad & Tobago at the 86,000-seat Egyptian Army Stadium Borg Al-Arab.
The 24 teams who have started arriving are concluding their final preparations. Venezuela and Cameroon were the first to arrive.
The tournament, which ends 16 October will be played in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Port Said and Suez.
Group A includes Egypt, Trinidad & Tobago, Paraguay and Italy and they play at the 72,000 Cairo Stadium. Group B includes Nigeria, Venezuela, Spain and Tahiti in the 28,000 Al-Salam Stadium.
Group C will be played at the 40,000 seat Mubarak Stadium in Suez and includes the US, Germany, Cameroon and the Korea Republic. Group D will be staged in Ismailia Stadium and will see Ghana, Uzbeskistan, England and Uruguay competing at the 18,525 seat stadium.
Group E will clash at the 17,988 seat Port Said Stadium and will include Brazil, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic and Australia. Alexandria will host Group E teams United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Honduras and Hungary and they will play at the 13,660 seat Alexandria Stadium.
Group F in Alexandria includes the UAE, South Africa, Honduras and Hungary.
Egypt have a convincing historical record at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, standing in 22nd position in the competition's all-time ranking out of 80 teams who have ever made it to the finals. The North Africans have made five appearances in the competition, starting with Australia in 1981 when Taher Abu Zeid finished as one of the top scorers of the tournament with four goals in just three matches. But their most impressive result was achieved 20 years later when they won the bronze medal in Argentina in 2001. The tournament which the country host in September and October will provide the young Pharaohs with a chance to compete for the title for the first time in front of their own fans.
Although Egypt qualified automatically for the finals as hosts of the competition, the Egyptian FA insisted that their team should participate in the African Youth Championship that was held this year in Rwanda. They saw it as the perfect opportunity to test their youth side's ability to compete in such competitive circumstances. They started off on the wrong foot by losing to Nigeria 2-0, but soon recovered to beat Côte d'Ivoire and South Africa respectively in their group. However, this was not enough to send them through to the final four, losing out on a place in the semi-finals on goal difference to South Africa. The result was disappointing for the Egyptians and has raised doubts over the young side's ability to fulfill their nation's hopes of winning a medal in the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Miroslav Soukup started his career in coaching at Czech side Tatran Prachatice, with whom he won a third division title in 2003, and his success there led to two seasons as assistant coach for top-flight Czech outfit 1.FC Brno.
Soukup guided his country, the Czech Republic, to the final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 but they lost the title to Argentina. He was scouted by Egyptian officials at that time who were hunting for a European manager who could help their team to reach the final of the same competition.
After a few months in charge, Soukup decided to let go of his previous local assistant Rabie Yassin who was credited for formatting the current team and replaced him with former Werder Bremen defender Hani Ramzi.
Goalkeeper Abu Gabal gave an impressive performance in Rwanda and proved to be the right man to succeed veteran keeper Essam El-Hadari in the Pharaohs' squad.
However, arguably the side's brightest prospect is 19-year-old Talaat Mohamed, who has shown immense promise with his stellar performances.
In the 21 games Egypt played in previous U-20 tournaments they seven, drew four and lost 10. They scored 25 goals and conceded 31. Egypt's best finish in the competition came in Argentina 2001, when they finished third. Notable members of that side included Mohamed Shawki who currently plays for Middlesbrough in England, former Spurs midfielder Hossam Ghali and Ahmed Abou Messalem who is currently based in France with League 2 side Ajaccio.
"We learned a lot of lessons in Rwanda and hope we can fix our mistakes before the tournament," Soukup said. "With the tournament taking place in September and October, we hope we would have enough time to bring new players to the side and give them the experience they lack especially that none of them have broken into the senior teams of their clubs."
The U-20 World Cup began modestly in Tunisia in 1977, with the FIFA Technical Report bemoaning the paucity of spectators. But by the early 1990s the competition had grown into an event of enormous importance with worldwide media exposure. Securing a committed long-term sponsor was crucial to the realisation of a project which Jočo Havelange had promised to launch when he became FIFA president in 1974. Above all, however, the competition's success has always depended upon the particular flavour of the games: a dash of youth, spontaneity and adventure.
The inevitable teething problems experienced in Tunisia in 1977 were mostly solved at the second U-20 World Cup in Japan in 1979, one of the first major international football events in that country, which helped to trigger interest and enthusiasm for the sport there. The role of the FIFA U-20 World Cup as an "ambassador" to so- called "developing" football countries continued in 1981 when it went to Australia for the first time. In 1983, however, the event enjoyed its first major success in Mexico, a country steeped in football tradition where the final between Brazil and Argentina drew a capacity crowd of 105,000.
The Soviet Union hosted the finals in 1985 while in 1987 it went to South America for the first time when Chile played host and in 1989 the state-of-the-art King Fahd Stadium on the outskirts of Riyadh was the spectacular setting for several matches. The 1991 final saw even the 1983 attendance eclipsed when 127,000 -- the second- largest crowd ever to attend a FIFA match -- crammed into Lisbon's Stadium of Light to cheer the home team to a repeat of their 1989 victory.
In 1993 the Australians revived memories of the 1981 finals and surpassed them with a superbly organised championship to which the young Socceroos made their own thrilling contribution. Latin football dominated both the 1995 event in Qatar (which had taken over the role of host at barely three weeks' notice after Nigeria had been considered unable to stage the competition) and the 1997 tournament in Malaysia. Africa was still unable to produce the winner in Nigeria 1999, although three CAF teams did make it to the last eight.
A young Maradona was in action at the 1979 U-20 World Cup.
When an African representative (Ghana) finally made it to the final in 2001, it was the host, Argentina, who won the day, their fourth FIFA U-20 World Cup title and a showcase for their budding star Saviola, the tournament's top scorer so far with 11 goals in seven matches.
The United Arab Emirates provided the venue for the 2003 edition of the tournament and the tournament's best player, Ismail Matar. A distinctive South American flavour permeated the Arabian air as they secured three of the four semi-final slots. Colombia and Argentina took third and fourth place respectively, while Brazil claimed their fourth FIFA U-20 World Cup against Spain, thus adding to their triumphs at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Cup and becoming world champions in all age categories.
The semi-finals in 2005 featured two African and two South American teams. Morocco eventually lost to Brazil in the play-off for third place, while Nigeria succumbed in the final against Argentina. The Argentines thus claimed their fifth FIFA U-20 World Cup title, and in Lionel Messi, they also boasted the tournament's best player and top goalscorer with six strikes.
With six gold medals to their name, Argentina now lead the all- time ranking ahead of Brazil in second place on four. The Argentinians triumphed in 1979 (with Diego Maradona and Ramon Diaz in their squad), 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2005 and 2007. Brazil have also claimed two silver medals to add to their four golds. Portugal are the only other team to have won the event more than once (in 1989 and 1991).
South American countries won all three events staged between 1993 and 1997 (Argentina twice, Brazil once) but Spain triumphed in 1999 -- their first ever win at a FIFA tournament -- with Japan springing the surprises by coming second. Mali, taking part for the first time since 1989, performed superbly to take the bronze. This tournament proved beyond a doubt that there is no longer a clear distinction between "strong" and "weak" teams in international youth football and that certain victories are a thing of the past. Standards among the different confederations have levelled out and the fact that four different confederations were represented in the semi-finals in 1989 is further evidence of this.
Other teams that have won the tournament are the Soviet Union (in 1977 with a line-up featuring Vladimir Bessonov as the competition's outstanding player), West Germany (in 1981 against a surprise team from Qatar) and Yugoslavia, whose 1987 vintage included Boban, Prosinecki and Suker.