The official draw of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 was held in Auckland, New Zealand, on Tuesday night (10.02.15) and the stage is now set for what is sure to become one of the most thrilling football events the country has ever seen.
Held across seven host cities from 30 May – 20 June, the FIFA U-20 World Cup will bring together 24 teams from across the world to the shores of New Zealand, all ready to battle it out in stadia across the country in the hopes of being crowned U-20 World Football Champions.
The star-studded event, overseen by FIFA representatives and helped along by New Zealand football stars past and present - including Oceania Footballer of the Century Winton Rufer - saw team managers and representatives converge on New Zealand’s ‘City of Sails’ to find out where their teams would be placed.
The draw climax did not disappoint with all teams receiving a chance to experience the best of what New Zealand has to offer. Group A sees home side New Zealand take on tournament newcomers Myanmar, USA and Ukraine in games taking place in Auckland and the Northland city of Whangarei.
Group B, based in New Zealand’s capital city Wellington, sees Argentina, Panama, Austria and an African CAF team yet to be determined, play their first games at the harbourside Westpac Stadium.
Hamilton, the home of The Hobbiton Movie Set and the ancient Waitomo Caves, awaits Group C which includes Qatar, Colombia, Portugal and an African CAF team (to be determined). Mexico, Africa CAF, Uruguay and Serbia will face each other in Group D in the sport-loving city of Dunedin.
Africa CAF, fan-favourites Brazil, Korea DPR and Hungary make up Group E, who will play in the North Island city of New Plymouth – a place renowned for great surf breaks and breath-taking landscapes.
Germany, Fiji, Uzbekistan and Honduras complete the draw in Group F and will play in Christchurch, known as the gateway to the South Island.
Ready to make history
New Zealand U-20 football head coach Darren Bazely said that his team are "ready to make history" during the tournament, as is New Zealand itself. Watched by an estimated 170 million people in 100 countries across the world, the FIFA U-20 Football World Cup is the second biggest FIFA football tournament.
And whilst New Zealand may be known as a rugby-loving nation due to the success of the national rugby team, the New Zealand All Blacks, the welcoming country is more than ready to embrace the festival of world football and the visitors that accompany it.
The geographic spread of the tournament - with host cities in both the North and South islands - gives visitors the chance to get out and explore the diverse landscapes, rich cultural heritage and friendly welcoming nature of New Zealand and its people.
New Zealand on show
FIFA Vice President, Jeffrey Webb, who was in New Zealand for the draw, said hosting the tournament in New Zealand was a “great decision for FIFA”.
“The U-20 World Cup is a superb competition that inspires many youths and creates the future stars of football. We hope that this will be the case in New Zealand this year too.
“Not only will it give New Zealand a chance to build the sport, but it is a great opportunity to show the world New Zealand’s landscapes, culture and heritage. It’s a great advert for New Zealand,” Webb added.
This is the third FIFA tournament to be held in New Zealand. The country has already hosted the FIFA U-17 World Championship in 1999 and the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2008. The tournament follows another major sporting event to be held in New Zealand in 2015 - the ICC Cricket World Cup which begins in Christchurch on February 14, 2015.