With only 22 days left in the countdown to the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Vanuatu are packing their bags and heading to Singapore to take on some of Asia’s most talented youth.
OFC President David Chung expressed his pride for the young side at their farewell ceremony in Auckland today, and wished them luck for their debut on the world stage.
“Make sure you fight, do your best, and always think positively,” Chung said.
The history-making U-20 side will depart Auckland tomorrow after spending two months in camp at the Oceania Football Confederation Academy, following a rigorous training schedule and playing against local club football teams – including OFC Champions League finalists Auckland City FC.
Although the local talent provided a good challenge for the World Cup contenders, Vanuatu U-20 coach Dejan Gluscevic is confident that their clashes in Singapore will give his side an even better taste of what to expect in Korea Republic.
“In this phase in Auckland we played clubs and a lot of inter-squad games. Now we’re entering our last phase,” he said.
“We’re going to play the Singapore U-23 Olympic team on 1 May and 5 May. We’ll play the Singapore U-20 team on 7 May and then we have a match against a local football club on 11 May. The final match will be against Vietnam U-20 on 14 May.
“We’re duplicating the World Cup by playing all the games in a row while in Singapore. This is where we’re going to be able to indicate the players who will be able to play this highly demanding and high intensity game schedule at the World Cup.”
Having only joined the team on their arrival in Auckland, Gluscevic has been impressed by the side’s quick improvement on the field and professional development off the field over the past two months.
“They’ve advanced very much tactically, physically, and their fitness coach has helped them very much,” he said.
“They’ve improved technically as well. We’ve used this very professional environment at OFC to develop and improve every aspect of player development.”
Drawn in a tough pool against Mexico, Germany and Venezuela, Gluscevic has also put a heavy focus on mental preparation and strength, creating strategies to keep the team’s feet on the ground after victories and chins high after defeats.
“We’re preparing post-match and pre-match programmes to prepare them mentally for those tough games and we are ready for any game result, winning or losing,” he said.
“We will help the players recover and prepare themselves properly for the next match.”
Vanuatu will travel on from Singapore to Daejeon in Korea Republic where they will face Mexico on 20 May and Venezuela on 23 May before flying to Jeju-du to play Germany on 26 May in Group B of the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic.