On Tuesday, October 15, the draws for 2019 Southeast Asian Games' football event were made. The outcome would please fans of the sport but not necessarily those belonging to Singapore. The 11 teams taking part in the tournament have been divided into two groups – five in Group A and six in B.
The Singaporeans, known as Young Lions, ended up in Group B where they have to share space with defending champions of the event Thailand as well as two other formidable teams in Vietnam and Indonesia. The other two teams, who are less fancied, happen to be Brunei and Laos.
As per the rules of the multi-disciplinary, biennial event, countries have to field their under-22 squads. Two players above the cut-off age are allowed in each team. In the 2017 SEA Games, held in Kuala Lumpur, the Thailand team had emerged victorious by defeating runners-up Malaysia 1-0 in the gold-medal match.
Myanmar and Indonesia were the two losing semi-finalists whereas Singapore finished third in Group A standings after the preliminary round and failed to progress into the final-4.
The 30th edition of SEA Games are being hosted by Philippines. Apart from the teams in Group B, the other five teams in the event, in Group A, are: Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Cambodia and Timor-Leste.
While the SEA Games get underway, officially, on November 30, as is usual in such events, the football matches start prior to that. The schedule is yet to be finalised but the first match would be played on November 26. The teams in the two groups will compete in the round-robin format with the top two sides in each group progressing to the semis.
Two football stadiums – Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila and Binan Football Stadium in Binan – will play host to the games. Both semi-finals would take place on December 7 and final, along with the bronze medal game, on December 10.
The Young Lions have returned empty-handed from both of the last two editions. Their last medal was a bronze from the 2013 edition which was held in Myanmar. Repeating, or even bettering that achievement, won't be easy this time around.