PURE JOY: Serbia's Predrag Rajkovic lifts the trophy as his teammates celebrate after their U-20 World Cup 2015 triumph after beating Brazil. Picture: EPA
African champions Zambia, Guinea, Senegal and South Africa carry the hopes of the continent in the Fifa U-20 World Cup, which kicks off in South Korea tomorrow

The first round draw was not kind to the quartet, though, with Guinea and South Africa, in particular, facing tough tasks just to survive the mini-league phase.

Guinea are in Group A with the host nation, Argentina and England, and many of the 24 coaches have labelled this the “group of death”.

Another contender for that title is Group D, which comprises Italy, Japan, South Africa and Uruguay.

Guinea and South Africa are entitled to feel hard done by when they look at the composition of two of the other groups.

France must be very happy to face Honduras, New Zealand and Vietnam in Group E and Mexico, Venezuela and Vanuatu are opponents that should please Germany in Group B.

Senegal tackle Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and the United States in Group F and Zambia play Costa Rica, Iran and Portugal in Group C.

Group winners and runners-up automatically qualify for the knockout second round along with the four best third-place teams.

Africa has delivered mixed results in the competition since Tunisia hosted the first edition in 1977.

Ghana won the 2009 tournament in Egypt, defeating Brazil on penalties after 120 goalless minutes.

This is the only time in 20 Fifa U-20 World Cup competitions that a South American or European country has not finished first.

Ghana have been runners-up twice, as have Nigeria, while Mali (twice), Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria came third.

Mali finished third and Senegal fourth in New Zealand two years ago behind champions Serbia and runners-up Brazil.

Only Senegal of those four countries qualified for South Korea – demonstrating the competitiveness of qualifying in the six Fifa regions.

Unlike most senior national teams in Africa, the 21-strong youth squads consist largely of home-based footballers.

Among the exceptions are a couple of west African footballers who have joined famous European clubs.

Guinea midfielder Oumar Toure is on the books of Juventus, the Italian giants who face Real Madrid of Spain next month in the Uefa Champions League final at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Senegal goalkeeper Mouhamed Mbaye is with Porto of Portugal, whose 2004 Champions League-winning team included South African Benni McCarthy.

Zambia striker Fashion Sakala is on the books of Russian outfit Spartak Moscow and South Africa star Luther Singh plays for Portuguese club Sporting Braga.

All 11 stars picked for the Africa U-20 Cup of Nations dream team after hosts Zambia defeated Senegal 2-0 in the final will be in South Korea.


Previously
Title-holders - Hosts
1977 Soviet Union - Tunisia
1979 Argentina - Japan
1981 West Germany - Australia
1983 Brazil - Mexico
1985 Brazil - Soviet Union
1987 Yugoslavia - Chile
1989 Portugal Saudi - Arabia
1991 Portugal - Portugal
1993 Brazil - Australia
1995 Argentina - Qatar
1997 Argentina - Malaysia
1999 Spain - Nigeria
2001 Argentina - Argentina
2003 Brazil - UAE
2005 Argentina - Netherlands
2007 Argentina - Canada
2009 Ghana - Egypt
2011 Brazil - Colombia
2013 France - Turkey
2015 Serbia - New Zealand
2017 South Korea - 

FIFA U20 WORLD CUP SOUTH KOREA FACTFILE
FIXTURES
(all times CAT)
Group A // Seeding: 1 South Korea (hosts), 2 Argentina, 3 England, 4 Guinea
Tomorrow
At Jeonju: Argentina v England (9.30am), Guinea v South Korea (1pm)
Tuesday
At Jeonju: England v Guinea (10am), Argentina v South Korea (1pm)
May 26
At Suwon: England v South Korea (1pm)
At Seogwipo: Argentina v Guinea (1pm)

Group B // 1 Germany, 2 Mexico, 3 Venezuela, 4 Vanuatu
Tomorrow
At Daejeon: Germany v Venezuela (7am), Mexico v Vanuatu (10am)
Tuesday
At Daejeon: Vanuatu v Venezuela (10am), Germany v Mexico (1pm)
May 26
At Suwon: Mexico v Venezuela (10am)
At Seogwipo: Germany v Vanuatu (10am)

Group C // 1 Portugal, 2 Costa Rica, 3 Zambia, 4 Iran)
Sunday
At Seogwipo: Portugal v Zambia (7am), Costa Rica v Iran (10am)
Wednesday
At Seogwipo: Iran v Zambia (10am), Costa Rica v Portugal (1pm)
May 27
At Cheonan: Costa Rica v Zambia (10am)
At Incheon: Iran v Portugal (10am)

Group D // 1 Uruguay, 2 Japan, 3 Italy, 4 South Africa 
Sunday
At Suwon: Japan v South Africa (10am), Italy v Uruguay (1pm)
Wednesday
At Suwon: Italy v South Africa (10am), Japan v Uruguay (1pm)
May 27
At Incheon: South Africa v Uruguay (1pm)
At Cheonan: Italy v Japan (1pm)

Group E // 1 France, 2 New Zealand, 3 Honduras, 4 Vietnam 
Monday
At Cheonan: France v Honduras (10am), New Zealand v Vietnam (1pm)
Thursday
At Cheonan: France v Vietnam (10am), Honduras v New Zealand (1pm)
May 28
At Daejeon: France v New Zealand (8am)
At Jeonju: Honduras v Vietnam (8am)

Group F // 1 United States, 2 Senegal, 3 Saudi Arabia, 4 Ecuador
Monday
At Incheon: Ecuador v USA (10am), Saudi Arabia v Senegal (1pm)
Thursday
At Incheon: Ecuador v Saudi Arabia (10am), Senegal v USA (1pm)
May 28
At Jeonju: Ecuador v Senegal (11am)
At Daejeon: Saudi Arabia v United States (11am)
Note: Group winners and runners-up and four best third-place teams qualify for second round