TheFA.com’s Nicholas Veevers blogs from the U20 World Cup.
The World Cup has kicked-off in Colombia and it’s pretty hard to ignore anywhere around the South American nation now.
All of the television channels and newspapers here are full of previews, interviews, charts and photos from around the country in each of the eight host cities.
The attention that all of the teams have received from the people of Medellin since we've been here has been fantastic, perfectly illustrated when the England squad interrupted a day at school for around 300 pupils of the Colegio San Ignacio who were all lined up on the side of their pitch to watch training and were then able to get various autographs and photos with the players.England’s match with Korea DPR
was in fact the first game of the competition and whilst the 0-0 scoreline was disappointing for the Young Lions, they can take much heart from their first-half performance.
Given that for almost all of the players, this was the first 90 minute match they had played since returning to their clubs for pre-season at the start of this month, it was a remarkable display in the first 45 minutes with the side looking good in possession and dangerous in attack.
On another day, England could have been a couple of goals ahead at the break but there’s a well worn football cliché that could be used somewhere in there which I won’t repeat again here!
It’s also been a tricky balancing act for the coaching staff on the training ground to find the right amount of fitness work whilst also preparing the players for the rigours of a World Cup and making sure they’re in the best condition possible for the games.
For most players here, their first steps into action for any new campaign would be with a pre-season friendly match as opposed to being thrust into the heat of a World Cup game. On top of that, take into account the altitude and opposition, as North Korea are renowned for their fitness and team-work which will have been well drilled into them over the past few months in preparation for the competition.
That game is over now and after the initial disappointment of the squad at not winning the match, they quickly re-found their spirits and turned their focus on Monday’s (or the early hours of Tuesday in English time) clash with Argentina.
Any game between these two nations attracts attention in the respective countries and it’s no different here, with great interest from the Colombian media in this game, as I keep hearing on the TV commentaries for the other World Cup games that are being shown here so the lads will be hoping to put on a good show.
Speaking of good shows, the host nation got their campaign underway on Saturday evening in Bogota. After an hour’s delay to kick-off following torrential rain in the capital, the atmosphere heightened even more and what a game they saw. European Champions France looked shell-shocked with the way in which Colombia came at them from the first whistle, and despite taking an unlikely lead, they just couldn’t stop a rampant Colombian side who won 4-1 and also missed a penalty.
With such strong home support and a chance of playing all of their games in Bogota, they have to be amongst one of the favourites to lift the trophy on home soil on 21 August.
And should England not lift the title this year, then I think most neutrals would love to see that happen.
Following the game on Monday night, we leave Medellin and head north to the coastal city of Cartagena. Whilst there will be no altitude there, humidity and an increase in heat will provide another challenge to the players but it’s certainly one which can be another addition to the experiences that these players are picking up from this competition.You can follow how things go right here on TheFA.com and FATV, with more video interviews and features to come over the campaign, so keep your eyes peeled.
For more instant updates of what’s going on here, follow @thefadotcom on Twitter or even myself on @NVivas79
Until next time,