McGarry delighted with strong showing at Singapore tournament

Glory's successful association with the prestigious JSSL Singapore International 7s Tournament continued earlier this month as another batch of its Academy youngsters outshone their counterparts from some of the world's biggest clubs.

Arsenal, Atletico Madrid and Valencia were among the top European outfits represented at what is Asia's largest youth football event, but Glory toppled both Spanish giants en route to a final showdown with the Gunners.

And Academy Technical Director Steven McGarry, who was part of the squad's coaching staff along with Richard Garcia, was thrilled with the way the tournament unfolded.

"Our message to the lads beforehand was to go and and try and compete and measure themselves against the best players," he said, "and they did more than that against Atletico and Valencia; they competed and came out on top.

"The boys represented the club really well on and off the field."

Adapting well to the artificial surface and humid conditions, the Academy side maintained a high level of performance throughout the group and knockout stages, as McGarry explained.

"We drew the first game against JSSL 0-0," he said, "which was fairly typical of the early games of the tournament. I think there were only four goals scored across the opening six games and a lot of that was down to players getting used to the surface and the seven aside format.

"Atletico was our second game and like us, they had a few younger lads playing.

"They were very technical and tidy on the ball, so it was a good test and that one ended up a 0-0 draw as well.

"In the third game we played Bangkok United and by that point our boys were accustomed to the surface and the humidity.

"It was a different challenge again, but we looked very comfortable and ended up winning 2-0 with Gabriel Popovic and Jay Leader getting the goals. 

"Next up was Arsenal and that was a whole new ball game. They were physically huge, very strong and very quick and we got beaten 2-0, but that's why you go to these tournaments, to test yourselves against the top teams and top players in the world.

"The way the competition is run, there are the professional clubs in two sections and the best local teams in another section and in the last 16 they come together.

"So having made it to the last 16, we played one of the local teams, Makati FC and we controlled that one and won comfortably, 4-0.

"That gave us some good confidence going into the quarters where we had to play Atletico again.

"We were losing 1-0 in the final minute, but then managed to keep the ball for about 30 passes and Gabriel Popovic poked one in with literally the last kick to make it 1-1.

"The tournament rules are that if it's a draw at full-time, you then reduce the teams to 3v3 and if there are no goals after a minute, it goes to 2v2 and then if there are still no goals, it goes to 1v1.

"It ended up going down to 1v1 and Josh Rawlins managed to win the ball, stride 50 yards and knock it into an empty net.

"After that it was just mayhem, with Josh running around the pitch with his shirt over his head and the whole bench chasing him!

"Next up in the semis it was Valencia who had been smashing everyone on the other side of the draw.

"They came in as favourites, but we played them off the pitch and controlled the game.

"We didn't manage to score, though, so it went to the reduced-numbers sudden-death scenario and when it got to 2v2, Rawlins scored again and everyone went crazy.

"It was Arsenal again in the Final and as we had when we first played them, we struggled with their pace and strength. We'd also played an extra game by then, which took its toll a wee bit.

"It ended in a 2-0 defeat and they were worthy winners, but it was an incredible run from us to get to the Final and we couldn't have been prouder of the lads."

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