Football kicks off Nanjing Youth Olympic Games

Updated: 2014-08-14 18:06


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NANJING, China - In the aftermath of the exciting 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, 12 youth squads are gathering in Nanjing, China to vie for the boys' and girls' football honors at the 2nd Youth Olympic Games (YOG), following in the footsteps of two South American teams of Bolivia and Chile who became champions four years ago in Singapore.

The girls' tournament in Wutaishan Stadium will feature some unpredictable and exciting first matches, with Papua New Guinea playing against novices Slovakia and Venezuela in group A. Papua New Guinea is the only team in the girls' tournament to have played at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, finishing in sixth place.

With the YOG being the first big international experience for most of the girls, Venezuela's squad might have an advantage over the other teams. Six players out of the team of 18 have played in this year's FIFA U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica. Defenders Sandra Luzardo, Fatima Lobo, Yuleisi Rivero and Nikol Gonzalez, forward Deyna Castellanos and goal keeper Nayluisa Caceres all were part of the successful Venezuelan squad that finished fifth in April's U-17 competitions.

In group B host nation China has been drawn together with fellow debutants Mexico and Namibia. Chinese forward Chen Xia is especially looking forward to the competitions on home turf, after becoming the top scorer with six goals under the AFC U14 regional championships in 2013.

Apart from Papua New Guinea in the girls' competition, the only other team to have played at the Youth Olympics before is Vanuatu.

The island nation has been drawn together with Cape Verde and South Korea in group D in the boys' tournament.

Vanuatu finished fifth in Singapore and is keen to show what progress they have made in the past four years. But South Korea could spoil their plans, as the Korean squad ranks among the favourites of this competition after having won the Asian Youth Games at the same stadium last August.

The other group of the boys' tournament features YOG debutants Peru, Iceland and Honduras. All games will take place at the Jiangning Sports Centre, the host of last year's Asian Youth Games.

With both the girls' and the boys' tournaments being very much unpredictable at this age level, the football competitions at Nanjing 2014 will see some exciting, motivating and exhilarating games. With all the athletes being born in 1999, everyone is eager to either spot or become the new, rising star on the grounds of both the Wutaishan Stadium and Jiangning Sports Centre.

As in Singapore 2010, football will be the first sport to kick off in the 2nd Youth Olympic Games. The girls' tournament will start on Aug 14, two days prior to the opening ceremony. The boys will follow the next day on August 15.