Having won the ASEAN Football Federation Championship (previously known as the Tiger Cup) on three occasions, Singapore are unquestionably one of their region’s most successful football nations. The fact remains, however, that they have made little impression on a wider stage, with the islanders never having qualified for the FIFA World Cup™. They have also appeared in Asia’s continental finals only once, when they failed to progress beyond the group stage as hosts of the 1984 AFC Asian Cup. Consequently, the inaugural Youth Olympic Football Tournament provides Singapore with a golden opportunity to make an international breakthrough.

As hosts, they have set their sights on reaching the last four of the six-team boys’ tournament. Guiding the Young Lions is Kadir Yahaya, a former Singapore international who took over in February. Under the 44-year-old, the youth side have spent several months in the build-up to the tournament in training camps at home and abroad, making them one of the competition’s best-prepared teams. A short trip to Melbourne in March was followed by another two-week camp in May in England, during which Yahaya’s outfits won two of their five games against some local age-group teams, with the highlight a 3-2 victory over a Tottenham Hotspur academy team.

Captaining the talented young crop of Singaporeans is Jeffrey Lightfoot, who provides the team with drive and leadership. Spearheading their attack is diminutive forward Muhaimin Suhaimi, while the creative talents of Hanafi Akbar are deployed in the role of second striker. The latter shot to prominence after a series of impressive displays at last year's Asian Youth Games and his goalscoring ability will be crucial if Singapore are to live up to their own expectations. For coach Yahaya, a positive result in the opening fixture against Zimbabwe is considered vital before the hosts take on European representatives Montenegro and, if all goes to plan, secure a place in the tournament’s last four.