Hosts aim to open with a bang
The opening day of the Boys’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament will bring excitement to the Jalan Besar Stadium with host nation Singapore entertaining Zimbabwe, while Bolivia take on Vanuatu in the day’s first match. For the home team, the opening game is a must-win if they are to advance from the group to reach the semi-final. In the other pairing, Bolivia, the only side that have openly stated their ambition for gold, have fixed their sights firmly on no fewer than three points against the Oceania islanders.
Match of the Day
Singapore-Zimbabwe, Jalan Besar Stadium, Friday 13 August, 20.45 (local time)
Most focus will be on Singapore when they cross swords with the enigmatic Africans. Featuring in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games and their first FIFA finals, the island nation are desperate to make an immediate mark on the international stage. In their lengthy, sixth-month preparation under coach Kadir Yahaya, the teenagers made rapid progress, highlighted by a 3-2 win over a Tottenham Hotspur academy side. However, in recent preparation matches they conceded unexpected goals and Yahaya urged his charges to defend well against the Africans. “We need to work on our focus, particularly late into the game,” warned the former Singapore international.
Zimbabwe, for their part, are undoubtedly capable of springing a surprise given the firepower they showed during the build-up. In their latest matches they fired five unanswered goals past local club Dynamos before running out 3-1 winners over Gunnas FC. Leading the line are Sibanda Mgcini and Ackim Mpofu, who finished tournament MVP and top-scorer respectively in the Coca Cola Provincial Championship. “I must urge them to work hard against the host side and I hope they can put in a good performance”, said coach Dumaza Dube. “I hope they grow and feature for the national teams in big competitions.”
The other game
Vanuatu-Bolivia, Jalan Besar Stadium, Friday 13 August, 18.00 (local time)
Bolivia is among the pre-tournament favourites, with coach Douglas Cuenca vowing to take his side to the title even before they arrived in Singapore. Their confidence has been further bolstered with a series of impressive results in the build-up, including a 2-1 defeat of USA and a 3-3 draw against Argentinos Juniors’ youth side. “No matter which team we face, our goal remains unchanged: we will win the game because we have come here for gold,” midfielder Yasser Manizur told FIFA.com.
In contrast Vanuatu have adopted a low-key approach though they are not short of ambition, coached as they are by former national team star, Etienne Mermer, with the 33-year-old featuring in the past three FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaigns. Taking over three months ago, the former midfielder wasted no time instilling his footballing philosophy on the young side. “I always push them to attack regardless of our opponents,” he told FIFA.com. “We know little about Bolivia but this won’t prevent us from playing good football.”
39 - The number of goals Zimbabwe have racked up in their five friendly matches, averaging nearly eight goals per game.
Did you know?
Vanuatu’s hopes of an opening-day win lay on the talents of a twin brothers: Charles and Michel Coulon. The former shores up the defence while the latter spearheads the attack.
“We are aiming for at least a semi-final spot. We have played against the youth teams of West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur in the build-up so we are ready.” Jonathan Tan, Singapore midfielder