The female footballers of Papua New Guinea and Venezuela are set to get the Nanjing 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games underway tomorrow two days before the Opening Ceremony takes place.
The football competitions are the longest events at this year’s Games and the boys’ competition will also get underway before the Games are officially opened, with Honduras and Iceland kicking off on Friday (August 15).
A total of 12 teams – six in the girls and six in the boys – will compete across two weeks of competition, with the girls’ medal matches scheduled for August 26 and the boys’ on August 27, the day before the Games officially close.
Papua New Guinea, representing the Oceania region, are the only team to have played in the girls’ football competition at the inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010.
They lost all three of their matches four years ago and face a daunting opening fixture against South American representatives Venezuela in Group A at the Wutaishan Stadium, which will host all matches in the girls’ competition.
Venezuela boast six players who played at this year’s FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, where they finished an impressive fourth, only losing out to Italy via a penalty shoot-out in the third place playoff.
“Our goal is to win the gold medal in the girls’ Youth Olympic football tournament,” said a confident Venezuela coach Kenneth Zseremeta, who will be able to call on the services of Deyna Castellanos, winner of the Golden Boot in Costa Rica.
Slovakia are the other side in Group A, while Mexico and hosts China will be the favourites to advance from Group B, which also contains African representatives Namibia.
Mexico are expected to be among the medal favourites in Nanjing and their squad includes two players from the World Cup in Costa Rica, were they defeated China 4-0.
Each side will play each other once in the group stage before the top two from each advance to the semi-finals.
The boys’ competition follows a similar format and like Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu are representing Oceania for a second time.
The Pacific Islanders lost out to Haiti and Bolivia four years ago before battling to a 2-0 win over Zimbabwe in the match for fifth place.
This time round they face a tough task again as they have been drawn in Group D alongside Asian Youth Games gold medal winners South Korea and Cape Verde.
Group C features European representatives Iceland, Honduras and Peru, who were crowned South American Football Confederation Under-15 champions last year.
All matches in the boys’ tournament will take place at the Jiangning Sports Centre Stadium.
Both Venezuela and Peru will be looking to repeat the efforts of South American neighbours Chile and Bolivia, who won the gold medal in the girls’ and boys’ competitions respectively in Singapore.
Equatorial Guinea and Turkey claimed the girls’ silver and bronze medals respectively, while in the boys’ event, Haiti took silver and bronze went to hosts Singapore.
This article first appeared in Inside the Games and has been reproduced with permission. The original article can be viewed by clicking here.