U-20 Men Arrive in Bauchi, Nigeria; Match Versus Japanese Set for Thursday
BAUCHI, Nigeria (Wednesday, April 7, 1999) - After arriving in the Nigerian city of Bauchi earlier today, the U.S. Under-20 National Team spent one hour training this evening at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in preparation for tomorrow's opening round clash with Asian runners-up Japan. The match, which is the USA's second of the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship (Nigeria '99), will kickoff at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET).
With three points, the United States are currently tied with Cameroon - who defeated Japan 2-1 on Monday - atop Group E. The top two teams in each of the six opening groups, as well as the four best third-place teams, advance to the Round of 16 in Nigeria.
"Japan has a very strong team," said U.S. U-20 head coach Sigi Schmid. "They had a bit of bad luck against Cameroon (on Monday), but overall they are a dangerous side and should not be taken lightly in this tournament."
The Japanese are led by captain and center midfielder Shinji Ono, a member of Japan's 1998 World Cup Team in France. Ono, who is already being tabbed as one of the future stars of the Japanese National Team, has garnered much attention for his outstanding play in the J-League. Japan also rely heavily on Masashi Motoyama, a speedy, skillful left-sided midfielder.
Japan suffered a disappointing 1-2 loss to Cameroon in its opening match. The Asian team controlled the tempo for nearly the entire match, but two late Cameroonian goals erased a 1-0 advantage Japan claimed in the first half.
By contrast the United States opened the tournament with a savvy 1-0 win over an England team comprised entirely of players with English league experience. The U.S. scored in the 11th minute off a Francisco Gomez corner kick, which was forcefully headed home by defender Dan Califf. The goal with the first international strike for the 6-foot Califf, who now has one goal in 22 Under-20 international matches.
The U.S. delegation traveled by charter bus earlier this morning to Bauchi, a city in north- central Nigeria. In addition to the USA-Japan match, the other Group E match - pitting England versus Cameroon - will take place tomorrow in Kano at 4 p.m. local (10 a.m. ET).
"Our goal right now is to get into the second round, and when we step on the field tomorrow against Japan that means we need to get some points," added Schmid. "I'm happy with how we have prepared up to this point and I'm confident that we will put forth our best effort against the Japanese."
U.S. Soccer will update it's website (www.us-soccer.com) after each U.S. game and as often as possible throughout the tournament. For further updates on the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship, please visit the FIFA website (www.fifa.com).
Group E - Matches played in Kano and Bauchi, Nigeria
Note: The top two teams in each of the six opening groups, as well as the four best third-place teams, advance to the Round of 16.