Borg al Arab.
The Under 20 FIFA World Cup began in the 'new' Borg al Arab (military) stadium outside of Alexandria.
The stadium was being used for the first time for a major game despite being built over 3 years ago (for a failed World Cup bid)
Very surprisingly around 80,000 turned out , post-Ramadan, to enjoy an entertaining opening ceremony and the first game featuring the hosts and Trinidad & Tobago.
Yes there were thousands of the pastel coloured military service personnel trucked-in for the occasion but nevertheless it was an impressive beginning. Inevitably with president Mubarak attending (alongside FIFA president Sepp Blatter) many were still outside as the stadium was 'locked down' some 3 hours before the 8pm kick-off.
Egypt U-20 4 Trinidad & Tobago U-20 1
The local youngsters were not overawed by the surroundings or size of the crowd as they passed the ball well and went in front through a Messi-like dribble from Afroto. Though the Caribbeans equalised after an Egyptian error the hosts dominated the second half scoring through Arafat (twice) and Talaat.
Time for a coloured coordinated Mexican wave finished by some turf-kissing and much local celebration to get the tournament off to a bright start.
Its Friday - a day to savour.
The roads are relatively benign and many are at prayers.I choose the metro then short taxi ride to the Cairo International stadium for the first game of a triple-header :
Italy U-20 0 Paraguay U-20 0
Its Italy so a nil-nil draw is never far away regardless of the age group.
A sparse crowd watched as both sides erred on the side of caution , both probably feeling confident of being able to progress beyond the group stages. It got languid at times in the 30 degree heat.
After a quick taxi ride, some dodging and weaving, and some searching I get to :
A new stadium some 40 minutes or so from the main Cairo stadium , featuring an impressive centrally positioned video screen and holding around 20,000 when full.
Nigeria U-20 0 Venezuela U-20 1
A reasonable number of Venezuela fans had made the trip for their first ever major FIFA event and they generated some atmosphere in the stands. Nigeria also had support, presumably from local workers. As always the pastels were trooped in.
The impressive Del Valle slid in the winner for the South Americans and perhaps typically the Nigerians had a man dismissed. Nigeria battled hard later on but failed to get a breakthrough.
Spain U-20 8 Tahiti U-20 0
The third game of the day, also in the Al Salam stadium.
Its not every day that you see a team from Tahiti play.
Though the South Sea islanders did have an early half-chance that was it. The closest they got to the Spaniards was to present them garlands prior to the start.
A shellshocked Tahiti goalie may as well as not been there as Spain destoyed their opponents, particularly down the right wing. They eased off in the second half and still scored eight.
A hot Suez and another new stadium , this time with a good sized 40,000 capacity, named after president Mubarak rather than the usual military nomenclature.
Germany U-20 3 USA U-20 0
A strong looking german side fairly easily overcame a partly college based US team - that often looked like, well, college players.
Look out for the German left back (Kopplin) - also a long throw exponent and their striker Sukuta-Pasu.
South Korea U-20 0 Cameroon U-20 2
The second game of the Suez double-header.
The sometimes comically wild shooting of the Cameroonians versus the all action Koreans.
Cameroon won following a Korean goalie error and a second later in the second half.
Name of the tournament - Banana Yaya , the Cameroon no.4.
Monday for another fraught triple header beginning with :-
Nigeria U-20 0 Spain U-20 2
A lob over the goalie for the first when put through and a Panenka-like chipped penalty for the second. Arsenal's Fran Merida ran this game.
True to form Nigeria have another guy sent off (Salami)
Italy U-20 2 Trinidad & Tobago U-20 1
Back in Cairo International stadium after a typically hair raising taxi ride, on a busy Monday, involving dirt tracks, going the wrong way along the main road and dodging a car stuck in a deep hole in the road.
As the hosts were playing later a decent crowd built up - mainly supporting the underdogs.
Albertazzi headed in the first but after a defensive mistake Junior Clarence converted the equaliser. It looked like Trinidad would get an impressive draw but a misplaced pass allowed Raggio to drive home the winner.
Egypt U-20 1 Paraguay U-20 2
The third game of the day and the main event. It is watched by well over 50,000 fans generating a vibrant atmosphere for their young team.
After a bright start from Egypt the South Americans quietened the crowd with a goal from Santander.
Arafat missed some half chances for the home side before Huth gets caught out and is red carded for holding back an Egyptian forward.
Afroto chips in the free kick for 1-1.
Into the second, and with a substitute goalie, Paraguay hold their own.
With various players succumbing to cramp the game ends with a corner headed back for Paniagua to volley home the Paraguayan winner from close range.
The locals disperse quietly though probably convinced that they will go through to the next phase anyway. And so it was.
It is the second biggest FIFA event in the calendar, after the main World Cup.
Though many major European football countries choose not to give it much support - England being a prime example - in Egypt there were plenty of takers.
Characteristically the play is more erratic (think Cameroon) , sometimes naive, and sometimes the players struggle to last the pace. But often the games look similar to full Internationals, as do the tactics employed (think Italy)
Egypt itself and Cairo in particular went from the relative heaven of the holidays after Ramadan to the mayhem we expect with snarled up roads and pollution.
Though Sepp Blatter thought that Egypt could stage the next African (full) World Cup it is hard
to see the infrastructure being capable.
more pics at http://www.photobox.co.uk/album/206285668