Kickin' it into gear

ROB BRODIE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

Are you ready for some futbol?

Finally, anticipation will give way to action today, as the FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off with a pair of matches in both Ottawa and Montreal.

A sellout crowd of 55,000 is expected at Olympic Stadium for the official tournament opener this afternoon between Poland and Brazil, one of the pre-tourney favourites. Later on in Montreal, it'll be South Korea and the U.S., which features Freddy Adu, one of this event's most well-known names -- at least in North America.

For the first time since the glory days of the CFL, Frank Clair Stadium might be filled to capacity for a football game. Not the same brand, mind you, but given that ticket sales had moved well past 24,000 by mid-afternoon yesterday, a full house of 26,500 is a definite possibility.

They'll see Panama take on North Korea, one of the U-20 World Cup's true darkhorse sides, at 4:30 p.m. Defending champion Argentina hits the pitch at 7 p.m. vs. the Czech Republic in one of the event's elite first-round matchups.

For the players, who've been diligently training for most of the week -- sometimes in oppressive heat -- it's finally game on.

Tonight's match vs. the Czechs, who hold a major height advantage, has all the trappings of a tricky test for Argentina, which has won four of the last six U-20 crowns and a record five overall.

'HAVE TO BE CAREFUL'

"We have to be careful with this team," said Argentina midfielder Matias Sanchez, 19. "They are bigger than us ... we have to play our best to win."

They'll look toward Sergio Aguero, who wears the No. 10 made famous by Argentine legend Diego Maradona, to lead the way. Sanchez calls the Atletico Madrid striker "the best" player on the squad, along with striker Mauro Zarate, who's just signed a deal with Al Sadd in Qatar reportedly worth $20 million US.

"(Aguero) can do a lot of things with the ball that the other (teammates) can't do," said Sanchez.

While Argentina and Brazil, to name two, have the loftiest of ambitions this month, others arrive with more modest goals. Panama, which went winless (0-6) in two previous shots at the U-20 World Cup, hopes to erase that goose egg quickly against North Korea.

"We're going to play to get the three points," assistant coach Julio Toral said yesterday through an interpreter. "We need these points for a positive start. If we win (today), it's half a ticket to the second round."


Videos

Photos