Favourites eye early progression
Bolivia and Zimbabwe are in contrasting moods heading into their second group games. The South Americans are expecting to build on their 2-0 opening victory over Papua New Guinea, knowing that a point against Haiti will secure their place in the semi-finals. The Africans, 3-1 losers to hosts Singapore, face an uphill task against a well-drilled Montenegro side, who are aiming to win their first game.
Match of the day
Bolivia-Haiti, Jalan Besar Stadium, Thursday 12 August, 18.00 (local time)
Coached by the vastly experienced Douglas Cuenca, who can count the legendary Marco Etcheverry among his backroom staff, Bolivia arrived in Singapore targeting nothing less than gold at the inaugural Boys’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament. They dominated from start to finish against Papua New Guinea and could have won by a greater margin if not for some resolute defening by the rivals. Pin-point passes and surging runs marked the attacking partnership between Jorge Alpire and Rodrigo Mejido, who were reinforced by exciting substitute Luis Banegas in the second half. With such enviable talents, Bolivia are unquestionably the favourites.
Regardless of how they perform, Haiti are definitely a team to respect with their involvement in the tournament applauded by media and fans alike. With determination to rebuild, the Haitians overcame some extreme hardship to form the team three months ago and they make it to the global event aiming not only to showcase their footballing passion and talent, but also to display hope. “We will strive to get a good result but we will also focus on the team’s long-term development,” Jean Ducasse, one of the team’s coaching staff, told FIFA.com. “This competition will help our players to gain experience and improve.”
Losing 3-1 to the hosts side was by no means a result Zimbabwe expected, but they did show what they are capable of in the second half when they pulled a goal back through Albert Kusemwa’s spot-kick and they could have further reduced the deficit in the latter stages. With their backs to the wall, the Africans are expected to go all out against Montenegro to keep their hopes alive, but it is the Europeans that look the better-prepared side going into the encounter after spending the past two years training together under coach Sava Kovacevic. Their proved their credentials in European qualifying when they beat San Marino 4-0 before edging Albania 2-1 for their place at Singapore 2010.
4 players from Montenegro are overseas-based, with first-choice goalkeeper Marko Kordic, defender Stefan Vico and playmaker Nebojsa Kosovic plying trade with Serbian clubs, and Danilo Sarkic strutting his stuff with FC Brussels of Belgium.
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Montenegro will have to make do without Kordic, who is suspended for his red card in their last qualifier.
“We watched Zimbabwe’s last match against Singapore and they are a very competitive side despite losing the game. We can’t afford to underestimate our rivals as at this young level, the players are relatively unpredictable, so we must focus on our preparation and play. ” Boris Ljutica, Montenegro assistant coach.