UNDER 20 WORLD CUP
The 24 teams involved in the World Cup have been divided into six groups of four. The games will be played as double headers with venues in Burnaby, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Victoria. The top two in each group and the four best teams making it to third place will progress to the second round which takes place over 11-12 July. The quarterfinals are to be played on 14-15 July with the semi-finals on 18-19 July. The National Soccer Stadium in Toronto will play host to the final and the third-place playoff games which will take place on July 22.
The Japanese are making their eighth consecutive appearance in the Under 20s World Cup championship. They were runners-up in the 1999 finals which were held in Nigeria. On hearing the draw, Japan Under-20 coach Yasushi Yoshida said: "We've been drawn into a tough group, but I know that there are no easy opponents in a world championship. We won't have much time to prepare for the tournament, but we'll do what we can. We'd like to focus on gaining a win first and then getting through the group stage."
Despite a somewhat lacklustre campaign at the recent CAF African Youth Championship in Congo, Nigeria's Flying Eagles did just enough to earn a coveted place in the Under 20s World Cup. A new wave of Nigerian youngsters may have reached the Final sat the 15th edition of the continental youth competition, losing 1-0, but they manifestly lack the sparkle of previous generations. Godwin Koko Uwua, coach of the Nigeria U-20 side said: "I'm Uwua and Siasia is Siasia, and the challenges I face may not be the same as his. Now's the time to be talking about the 2007 Flying Eagles, not the 2005 team."
Costa Rica return to the Under 20s World Cup after missing out on the previous two tournaments. This will be the sixth time the Ticos have reached the finals and judging by the strength of their squad, the central American giants have every reason to be optimistic about their chances. Costa Rica coach Geovanny Alfaro said: "To reach the World Cup is a huge step forward. We haven't won anything yet though, and we've got a long way to go because we want to make history by putting in a good performance in Canada."
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