Sunday, 20 April 2008

[Olympics 2008] Italy going for Gold

Italy will have to overcome Cameroon, Honduras and South Korea in Group D to reach the second round of the 2008 Olympic Games in China this summer.

The draw for the Under-23 tournament took place in the Chinese capital of Beijing and coach Pierluigi Casiraghi will be delighted to have avoided the likes of hosts China, Argentina and Brazil.

Italy, bronze medallists at Athens 2004, secured an Olympics spot for 2008 after the Under-21's team edged out Portugal on penalties in their sides' play-off encounter at the 2007 UEFA European Under-21's Championship.

The sixteen men's teams will be competing in the tournament to be played in six stadiums in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao from 7 to 23 August 2008.

Italy will open their campaign with their first two games in Qinhuangdao against group minnows Honduras on August 7 and South Korea on August 10. The Azzurri will hope to complete qualification into the quarter-finals with their final match against Cameroon on August 13 in Tianjin.

"I think it's a good draw for us, even if it is a bit difficult for us, as we don't know the Olympic teams," Casiraghi said following the draw. "But we will analyse them now.

"Cameroon can prove very difficult and South Korea are almost playing at home. Our first goal is to go through the group stage - and then we'll see," he added.

Elsewhere hosts China were placed in Group C with Belgium, Brazil and New Zealand. Argentina, gold medallists in 2004, are in Group A with Australia, Ivory Coast and Serbia. And European champions the Netherlands are in Group B along with Japan, Nigeria and the USA.

The top two in each group will progress to the quarter-finals where the Group A qualifiers will be paired with Group B qualifiers, and the same with the Group C and D qualifiers.

At the last four stage, the two beaten semi-finalists will battle it out for the bronze medal in the third/fourth-placed final on August 22 in Shanghai. The gold and silver medals will be awarded in the Final which takes place at the Olympic Stadium in Beijing on August 23.

Each nation will call up on a squad of 18 players for the tournament to travel to Beijing and at least 15 of those must have been born after January 1, 1985. The rules allow each nation to take three "over-age" players.

Tournament Schedule
All kick-off times listed below are UK time (+1hr for Italy/CET or +7hrs for China).

Group A:
Wednesday August 7
Australia v Serbia (Shanghai, 1000)
Ivory Coast v Argentina (Shanghai, 1245)
Sunday August 10
Argentina v Australia (Shanghai, 1000)
Serbia v Ivory Coast (Shanghai, 1245)
Wednesday August 13
Ivory Coast v Australia (Tianjin, 1245)
Argentina v Serbia (Beijing, 1245)

Group B:
Wednesday August 7
Japan v USA (Tianjin, 1000)
Netherlands v Nigeria (Tianjin, 1245)
Sunday August 10
Nigeria v Japan (Tianjin, 1000)
USA v Netherlands (Tianjin, 1245)
Wednesday August 13
Netherlands v Japan (Shenyang, 1000)
Nigeria v USA (Beijing, 1000)

Group C:
Wednesday August 7
Brazil v Belgium (Shenyang, 1000)
China v New Zealand (Shenyang, 1245)
Sunday August 10
New Zealand v Brazil (Shenyang, 1000)
Belgium v China (Shenyang, 1245)
Wednesday August 13
China v Brazil (Qinhuangdao, 1245)
New Zealand v Belgium (Shanghai, 1245)

Group D:
Wednesday August 7
Honduras v Italy (Qinhuangdao, 1000)
South Korea v Cameroon (Qinhuangdao, 1245)
Sunday August 10
Cameroon v Honduras (Qinhuangdao, 1000)
Italy v South Korea (Qinhuangdao, 1245)
Wednesday August 13
South Korea v Honduras (Shanghai, 1000)
Cameroon v Italy (Tianjin, 1000)

Saturday August 16
[Group C winner] v [Group D runner-up] (Shenyang, 1100)
[Group D winner] v [Group C runner-up] (Beijing, 1100)
[Group A winner] v [Group B runner-up] (Shanghai, 1400)
[Group B winner] v [Group A runner-up] (Qinhuangdao, 1400)

Tuesday August 19
[QF2 winner] v [QF4 winner] (Shanghai, 1100)
[QF1 winner] v [QF3 winner] (Beijing, 1400)

Third/Fourth-placed Final
Friday August 22
[SF1 loser] v [SF2 loser] (Shanghai, 1200)

Saturday August 23
[SF1 winner] v [SF2 winner] (Beijing, 0500)

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