Dutch out to show credentials

Netherlands aim to use a four-team tournament in Hong Kong to fine-tune their game for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament, and demonstrate why they are major contenders to take the gold in Beijing.

The Dutch, Côte D'Ivoire, Cameroon and USA play in the ING Cup in Hong Kong on 30 July and 2 August, which will help them get acclimatised to the heat and humidity before they head north for the full Olympic tournament.

The Games begin on 8 August, but the men's 16-team football starts a day earlier, with Netherlands among the favourites along with Argentina, Brazil and Italy. Côte D'Ivoire are tipped to be the strongest of the three African sides.

The 18-man U-23 squads can include three overage players, and Dutch coach Foppe De Haan will be hoping he has got the balance just right, with two of the senior members of the contingent paired upfront. But a batch of the young Netherlands players, notably Liverpool's flying winger Ryan Babel and Real Madrid's Royston Drenthe, are expected to light up the Beijing Games.

Babel, 21, is fast recovering from an ankle injury that forced him to miss last month's UEFA EURO Championships with the full national team, and he played 45 minutes in a laboured 1-0 friendly victory over Belgium on 23 July.

"It's exciting to be in Hong Kong as we're getting closer to the Olympics and I expect to be fully match fit by then," said Babel, who Liverpool splashed out £11.5million ($22million) on last summer.

I think it will be quite open, as every team playing there has a good chance
Liverpool and Netherlands winger Ryan Babel on the upcoming ING tournament in Hong Kong

"," he added on the team's arrival in a sweltering Hong Kong on Sunday.

The Dutch play Nigeria, Japan and USA in Beijing in what looks a reasonably comfortable group before the knock-out stages, and De Haan hopes games against Cameroon and Ivory coast here will provide the perfect preparation.

Fitness concerns
The 65-year-old was concerned about the fitness of some of his players in the Belgium friendly. "Most have done their bit during their holidays, but others have been flat on their backs for a few weeks. That was the outcome of the tests we did with the players, they weren't all positive results," said the coach.

"For this tournament you must be totally fit and healthy, otherwise you'll fall through after five seconds," De Haan told Dutch football's official website, identifying Nigeria as their toughest opponents in the Olympic group.

Cameroon, who won gold in Sydney in 2000, are not expected to do nearly so well this time, so Côte D'Ivoire look likely to provide the Dutch with their stiffest test here, particularly as they will be more comfortable in the heat, with temperatures around 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit).

In Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou they have a player of genuine ability, albeit one who has yet to set the English Premier League alight.

"At the Olympics, our objective is to reach the quarter-finals. The team have been playing good, attacking football and the players are finding each other very well when pushing forward," said coach Gerard Gili.

USA are rated among the weaker teams in Beijing, but one-time prodigy Freddy Adu will be eager to prove on the international stage, and in the transfer shop window, that he can live up to the hype of his early years.

The ING Cup kicks off on Wednesday with Côte D'Ivoire taking on USA while Cameroon play Netherlands.