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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 17:38 GMT
Burkina face tough opener
Madi Panandetigueri
Madi Panandetigueri will be one of Burkina Faso's most important players
Burkina Faso's young footballers have a tough task ahead of them as they prepare for their first World Youth Cup match against Panama on Friday.

The two sides have reached the tournament in the United Arab Emirates for the first time but the Central American's appear to have an air of quiet confidence about them.

"We are so excited for the first game," Panama forward Cristian Vega told the Fifa.com website.

"But we are calm, there are no nerves. We have great respect for Burkina Faso, as we have for everybody we play, but we don't fear anyone."

I'm sure we can go a long way in this tournament
Burkina Faso's Boureima Ouattara
They are brave words indeed given the rising stature of the West African team.

Burkina Faso caused a sensation two years ago when they reached the semi-finals of the Fifa U-17 World Championship in Trinidad & Tobago.

Powerful, skilful and strong in defence, the Burkinabe team in the UAE is taken mostly from that 2001 third-place finishing team.

One veteran of the Burkinabe side from Trinidad, Boureima Ouattara, is back and brimming with pride ahead of Friday's opener against Panama.

"I'm sure we can go a long way in this tournament," he told Fifa.com.

"Our strengths lie in the spirit and camaraderie that reign in the camp. We have almost the same side we had in Trinidad and Tobago. And the newcomers have made a real impact too."

The World Youth trophy
This is the big prize at stake in the UAE
"The Panamanians are beatable but we won't underestimate them," Ouattara said respectfully.

"I think the game will be won and lost in midfield, by closing down the other side. Which is precisely what we do very well."

Midfielder Bourema Maiga, a veteran of the Burkina Faso side that failed to make it out of the first round at the under-17 World Championship New Zealand 1999, is also quietly optimistic.

"We don't know much about Panama at all but we aren't too worried. The coach (Mart Nooij) will fill us in the day before the match and we'll just go out and play our normal game," he concluded.

"The lads are all up for it and can't wait to get started," he added.

"We aren't afraid of anyone."




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