WARSAW, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Excitement is building in Poland ahead of the 2019 FIFA under-20 World Cup which kicks off on Thursday in the city of Lodz.
Over 500 players from 24 countries and regions have touched down to participate in 52 matches, to be played at various venues over the next few weeks.
An early highlight will feature Poland facing Colombia in the tournament's opening match on Thursday evening.
"The world of football is looking at the city of Lodz," Jaime Yarza, Head of FIFA Tournaments, told media ahead of the tournament. Yarza also predicted that some of "the biggest and most important players of the future" would be appearing.
Zbigniew Boniek, president of the Polish Football Association, said the tournament could see a player emerge in the same mould as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski or Harry Kane. "I firmly believe that'll happen at this tournament," he told the official FIFA website.
"For the majority of them it will be their first major tournament, so they'll be doing their first interviews, press conferences; it'll be their first time in the limelight. This will be one of the most memorable moments of their careers," Boniek said.
In addition to those arriving to watch games, Boniek said the tournament was a priceless opportunity to showcase Poland on a global stage.
"After EURO 2012, there was a huge growth in the tourism sector because we showed that we're a country where you can eat well, where the people are hospitable and where you feel safe. It's a great opportunity to showcase our country, not just in a footballing sense," Boniek added.
"I urge fans to attend matches in their droves. It'd be great if we showed the world that we Poles love international football, especially youth football."
The contest is receiving strong backing form the Polish government, which has recently proposed more investment in the innovation of football, in an effort to boost the development of the sport.