Sunday 24 February 2019, 15:21

Poland 2019 draw sets up intriguing ties

  • FIFA U-20 World Cup group stage draw made in Gdynia

  • Hosts Poland to face Colombia, Tahiti and Senegal in Group A

  • Poland to play Colombia in the opening match in Lodz on 23 May

The 22nd edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off in less than 90 days, and two major milestones were reached this weekend as the tournament in Poland approaches.

Grzywek, a Polish bison, was unveiled as the tournament's Official Mascot on Saturday 23 February, while the following day the 24 participating teams discovered who they will face at the world's most important youth tournament after the group stage draw was made at the Gdynia Arena.

FIFA legends Bebeto, who won the U-20 World Cup in 1983 and the FIFA World Cup in 1994; and Fernando Couto, who lifted the U-20 title in 1989, made the draw in front of numerous coaches and icons of Polish football.

Hosts Poland will face Colombia in the opening match on 23 May and have been drawn in the same group as Senegal - all three sides met at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ during the group stage.

"I will be here during the summer, not only to enjoy the games but also to discover the culture of Poland,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. "The FIFA U-20 World Cup is a way for young players to demonstrate their talents and it is the second oldest FIFA competition, watched by more than 13 million people. Tickets are very affordable, so we hope for packed stadiums in the six host cities of Poland."

"We are pleased that FIFA have trusted in us to organise this great event,” said Zbigniew Boniek, President of the Polish Football Association. “The tournament will be a big success, made together by FIFA and the Polish FA. Everyone will have the chance to experience Polish hospitality, our openness to others, our cuisine and our fantastic fans. This tournament is organised in a special year for us as we celebrate 100 years of the Polish FA."

"The FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1983 was one of the highlights of my career," said Bebeto. "Not only because of the matches but also because of the atmosphere, the stadiums and the whole event. As a country with a great footballing history and tradition, Poland will undoubtedly stage a fantastic tournament."

"I know from personal experience that the U-20 World Cup is extremely demanding and exciting," said Couto. "Anybody could win it. A lot of teams could go a long way, including the hosts. Polish fans and visiting supporters can look forward to a spectacular competition where there will be lots of attacking football on show."

The groups at a glance

Group A: Poland, Colombia, Tahiti, Senegal

Group B: Mexico, Italy, Japan, Ecuador

Group C: Honduras, New Zealand, Uruguay, Norway

Group D: Qatar, Nigeria, Ukraine, USA

Group E: Panama, Mali, France, Saudi Arabia

Group F: Portugal, Korea Republic, Argentina, South Africa

The reaction

"We have slight déjà vu as our group looks almost the same as at the World Cup in Russia, where we also faced Colombia and Senegal. We chatted in Warsaw about such a possibility before the draw and it happened! This group is nice. We have our goals and we want to achieve them. We will be ready. Of course, we will be under pressure as the host nation always are - the opening ceremony, the opening game, but we’re positive. You work for this, you work for a chance to take part in such a tournament. It will be a pleasure to open this competition." Jacek Magiera (Poland U-20 head coach)

"Almost all the groups in my opinion are well balanced but ours is a little bit special. We have Poland, the hosts of the tournament. It is going to be more special because of that. We have a slight psychological advantage over Poland as our national team beat them at the World Cup in Russia. Our goal? To reach the final!" Mayacine Mar (Senegal U-20 head coach)

"I know what it means to win the U-20 World Cup as I did it with Fernando Couto, who took part in today's draw in Gdynia. We celebrated our victory in 1989 and, of course, it was very special. Now, we also have good team and we’ll go to Poland with high expectations. But we’ll take it game by game." Helio Sousa (Portugal U-20 head coach)

"For me, what is most important is that we finally know our opponents. Now we can better prepare for this tournament, focusing on the specific opponents we will face. What Uruguay would like to show to the world during this tournament? I think we are a team which can be dangerous in attack while we’re also strong in defence. It would be good to expose these qualities here in Poland." Gustavo Ferreira (Uruguay U-20 head coach)

The U-20 World Cup 2019 will take place from 23 May to 15 June in Poland, with at least seven matches to be played in each of the six host cities. Both the opening game and the final will be held in Lodz, while Bielsko-Biala, Bydgoszcz, Gdynia, Lublin and Tychy will all stage at least two matches with a seeded team.