Milk Cup draw throws up contrasting early opposition
Posted by nickogs20 on June 15, 2009
The draw for the 2009 Northern Ireland Milk Cup has been made, and United now know the identity of their first two opponents as they seek to defend the trophy they won in terrific style last year.
The Reds will again compete in the Premier section for U17s that they dominated so comprehensively in 2008, a team featuring Kiko Macheda, Matty James, Ollie Norwood, Davide Petrucci and Cameron Stewart (among others) bagging twenty goals in their five games. This year promises to be a little tougher for Paul McGuinness’ side, with only Joshua King and Robbie Brady eligible from the group of second-year scholars, in contrast to the likes of Macheda, James, Norwood and Stewart last season. Nevertheless, this will be an early opportunity to see United’s new crop of first years in action, as well as some of the more promising Under-16s.
The tournament runs from the 27th-31st of July this year, and features the usual mix of teams from Northern Ireland, the Republic and the British Isles as well as a strong contingent from further afield, although the global economic downturn has had an effect and prevented certain teams entering. Nonetheless, the Premier section boasts a strong field, Portuguese champions FC Porto, Turkish giants Fenerbahce and Premier League newcomers Burnley among the more notable contenders. Also present are Desportivo Brasil, United’s Brazilian affiliate club, and South Coast Bayern, the Reds’ opponents in last year’s final.
The format sees the twenty competing clubs each randomly drawn to face two of their fellow participants, with a game on Monday and another on Tuesday. The field is then split into three based on record, with the top eight progressing into the knockout stages of the Milk Cup proper, while the second and third band of clubs contest the BT Northern Ireland Trophy and the Dunluce Trophy respectively.
United’s two qualifying opponents couldn’t be much more different, with Monday seeing the defending champions take on distinctly local opposition in the form of County Antrim (a 6pm kick-off at the Ballymena Showgrounds) before a Tuesday clash with Academica Deportivo Cantalao, a team from Peru with just a little bit further to travel (that game kicking off at 7pm at the Coleraine Showgrounds). Neither side should be underestimated, but the Reds will be confident of progressing to the knockout stages of the Milk Cup, where they would be bidding for a third straight run to the final.
We’ll have much more on the Milk Cup as the tournament approaches.