KEIR RADNEDGE in ISTANBUL: While world football’s officials play their own games in the corridors of power, so the real world game goes on – as evidenced by the draw here tonight for the finals of the World Under-20 Cup in Turkey from June 21 to July 13.
The draw went ahead even though the four African entrants and one from Oceania have yet to be decided. The African youth championships are being staged in Algeria and, after next weekend’s final, a draw will assign the places in the match schedule.
“This tournament is ranked by FIFA as second-only to the World Cup,” said Jim Boyce, Britain’s FIFA vice-president who is tournament organising chairman, “and it’s tremendous to see the tournament being staged in a wonderful country like Turkey.”
Boyce, whose FIFA stint ends in 2015, added: “Football is a tremendous sport for bringing people together, irrespective of class, colour or creed and it’s wonderful that we’ll have 24 teams of young men who will come here and go home not only as better footballers but as better citizens.”
Players to have graduated from the under-20 school have included Diego Maradona, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos, Davor Suker, Thierry Henry, Michael Essien, Michael Owen, Diego Forlan, Andres Iniesta, Oscar and Leo Messi.
The new trophy was brought on stage by Hakan Sukur who captainedTurkey’s seniors to their best-ever third place in the World Cup inJapanandSouth Koreain 2002. He then stepped over as one of the draw assistants who included Mustafa Denizli and Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim.
Hosts Turkey take on El Salvador, Colombia and Australia in Group C in Trabzon and Rize while holders Spain face France, an African team and the United States in Group A in Istanbul.
England head south to the seaside in Antalya to face Chile, the African champions and Iraq.
Group A (Ali Sam Yen,Istanbul): France, African team, United States, Spain (seeded as champions)
Group B (Kayseri): Cuba, South Korea, African team, Portugal
Group C (Trabzon and Rize): Turkey, El Salvador, Colombia, Australia
Group D (Gaziantep): Mexico, Greece, Paraguay, African team
Group E (Antalya): Chile, CAF champions, England, Iraq
Group F (Bursa): Oceania champions, Uzbekistan, Uruguay, Croatia.
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