For the first time in the Boys’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament Singapore 2010, the supporters of the host nation will be dealt with somewhat of a dilemma when their Young Lions meet Haiti in the semi-final clash on Sunday.
It goes without saying that Singapore will enjoy vociferous support as the local side aim to make history in their first FIFA competition. However there will also be a level of backing for Haiti who, having endured unimaginable hardship prior to Singapore 2010, have become a firm favourite since their arrival. Needless to say, the nation has earned respect for their indomitable spirit and determination as the country continues to rebuild following the devastating earthquake earlier this year.
The local fans showcased their support to Haiti during the match against Vanuatu on Thursday with the Caribbean side needing a win to progress to the last four following their 9-0 demolition at the hands of Bolivia. From start to finish, the crowd spurred the Haitians on, applauding their every move and chanting “Haiti, Haiti” after Vanuatu took the lead early in the second half courtesy of Petch Ham’s opening goal.
With the majority of fans cheering them on, Haiti rallied to level with 13 minutes to go, Daniel Gedeon finding the back of the net after he chested down a lobbed pass. The goal sent seemingly the entire stadium into raptures and within three minutes Haiti found the winner as Jean Bonhomme scored from a sharp angle.
Singapore enjoy favourtism
The question remains whether Haiti will receive the same support in the next game, however, Singapore coach Kadir Yahaya was quick to express his respect to the rivals. “They played hard (against Vanuatu) and they are a highly-respected team,” the former Singapore international told FIFA.com. “We can’t think we are favourites because the opponents are Haiti and we have to play hard against them. We can’t relax.”
Despite the host nation overcoming Montenegro 3-2 for a memorable victory, Yahaya admitted that they have to raise their performance in the midfield against the Haitians. “Today we lost possession cheaply. We lost the ball easily in very dangerous areas, particularly in the middle of the park,” he continued.
Muhaimin Suhaimi, who collected his third goal of the tournament when he opened the scoring for Singapore after three minutes, told FIFA.com that they will show Haiti respect despite the Caribbean nation only squeezing into the semi-finals. “We can’t underestimate any team,” he said. “We can’t change our way of playing and must keep up our hard work.”
The task of stopping Singapore’s most potent attacking weapon rests on the shoulders of goalkeeper Jeff Petit Frere who put in an excellent display against Vanuatu after seeing his net bulge nine times against Bolivia. Inspired by their comeback triumph over Vanuatu, the Haiti No1 said they don’t fear any opponent. “In our first match (against Bolivia) we were still fitting in but after today’s match we know what we are capable of. We will try to maintain this momentum in the next game,” the 15-year-old stated.