Preparations for the Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010 have gathered momentum after the draw for the inaugural competition's football tournaments was held on 18 May at the host nation's PSA Building Auditorium. The event, which kicked off a series of similar draws in other sports, threw up some intriguing match-ups as a dozen participating nations discovered their opponents.
While the senior Olympic Football Tournaments comprise 28 male and female teams, the junior competitions, which are to run from 12 to 25 August at Singapore’s Jalan Besar Stadium and will involve players born between 1 January and 31 December 1995, consist of two six-team tournaments for both boys and girls. The six sides in each tournament are divided into two groups, with the top two finishers from each advancing to the semi-finals. Ten of the teams involved were nominated by their confederation while the UEFA duo qualified through a mini-tournament.
On the girls’ side, Asian representatives Iran lock horns with Turkey and Papua New Guinea in Group A, while Group B features Chile, Equatorial Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago, the hosts to September’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. The Iranians take on Turkey in the curtain-raiser, while Trinidad and Tobago kick off Group B against Chile seeking to make a name for themselves on the international stage.
The boys’ draw pits hosts Singapore against Zimbabwe and Montenegro in Group D, while Vanuatu, Bolivia and an as yet undecided CONCACAF representative have been placed together in Group C. With unprecedented support expected from the home crowds, Singapore will be eager to showcase their progress at the youth level in front of a watching world but will be wary of rivals who will arrive as unknown, and potentially dangerous, quantities.
Hosts set realistic goals
“We are in a tough group,” Singapore head coach Kadir Yahaya said after the draw. “Our first game against Zimbabwe will be crucial for us to progress into the semi-finals. This is a prestigious world tournament which will be live broadcast worldwide, so there won’t be any easy games. ”
Prior to the draw, the hosts had set their sights on reaching the last four, a goal which remained unaltered by the draw according to Singapore Football Association spokesman Eric Ong. “Despite the draw results, our goal is unlikely to change,” he told FIFA.com, “We will focus on the group phase competition and progressing to the last four. After that, with our initial goal accomplished, we will definitely try our best to break further ground.”
To ensure their team can enter the tournament well prepared, Singapore have embarked on a lengthy build-up programme, which began last year. The Young Lions traveled to Melbourne in March, where they played a series of warm-ups with local youth teams, and next week they will set off for England for a two-week stint during which they will come up against youngsters from Tottenham Hotspur’s youth academy.
Coach Yahaya sees this European camp as the last opportunity to take stock of the talent at his disposal. "In Australia we played against older players and in England the boys will play the kind of schedule we will face in August, with appropriate breaks in between matches," explained the 42-year-old former Singaporean international. "This will allow us to see how they cope and give us an idea of who will make the final squad."