Future stars to shine at FIFA U-20 World Cup
Turkish Football Federation executive Emre Alkın says the Turkish team will try to keep the World Cup trophy in the country. DHA photo
Future stars will take it to the international stage as the FIFA U-20 World Cup starts in Turkey tomorrow.
Twenty-four teams from all over the world will vie for the trophy at the end of a month-long competition, which spans seven Turkish cities.
The competition, which was previously dubbed as “the second most important FIFA tournament after the World Cup,” by Sepp Blatter, the president of world football’s governing body, will be Turkey’s most important hosting experience.
İlker Uğur, the tournament director, told Turkish broadcaster A Haber last month that Turkey had hosted important sporting events, but they were all limited to one city.
“This time, we are hosting a seven-city event, and it requires more complicated coordination,” Uğur said.
Jim Boyce, the chairman of the Organizing Committee for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, agreed that the event would be important for Turkey.
“This is a big event for Turkey. It is not only important for FIFA, obviously, it is even more important for Turkey,” Boyce said during the official press conference held in Istanbul yesterday. Boyce highlighted that it could also boost Istanbul’s hopes of hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. Istanbul is currently competing against Tokyo and Madrid in the 2020 Games hosting bid.
Boyce said 300,000 tickets had already been sold, saying that this was already a good number. However, the Organizing Committee head added that last-minute purchases would be high.
The tournament will start with two games at 6 p.m. tomorrow. France will meet Ghana in a Group A game in Istanbul’s Türk Telekom Arena, while Cuba takes on South Korea in a Group B game at the Kadir Has Stadium. Later, Nigeria meets Portugal in Kayseri and the United States plays against heavy favorite Spain. Second games will be played at 9 p.m.
Host Turkey will team up with Colombia, Australia and El Salvador in Group C, whose games will be played in Black Sea the provinces Trabzon and Rize except for one match in southern Gaziantep.
Gaziantep is home to the Group D games, where Mexico, Paraguay, Mali and Greece will challenge.
England, Chile, Iraq and Egypt will play their Group E games in the Mediterranean Antalya with the exception of one match.
All but one game of Group F, which has New Zealand, Uruguay, Croatia and Uzbekistan, will be played in the northwestern province of Bursa.
European giants Spain and France come to Turkey with solid squads while Turkey, England, Nigeria and Colombia look to be other favorites. Teams such as Cuba, Iraq, Egypt or El Salvador will try to spring some surprises on a stage where the unexpected can always happen.
“No Brazil and no Argentina, so it’s very difficult to say [who is favorite],” Boyce said. “But Spain is dominating world football now, and I was told that this Spanish team is one of the most exciting teams in years.”
However, Turkish Football Federation secretary-general Emre Alkın hinted that the host could emerge as the winner.
“We, the Turks, are famous for our hospitality,” Alkın said. “It is rude to return a present. Right now we have a World Cup that was brought here. Perhaps it will not be returned.”