National Team - Lions ● Nov 24, 2018

Preview: Lions will fight ‘to the end’ against Thailand, says Fandi

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SINGAPORE, 24 NOVEMBER 2018 – The Lions take on the Thais in a crunch ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 Group B match tomorrow night, 25 November at the Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok. Kick-off is at 8pm, Singapore time.

Background A handsome 6-1 thumping of Timor-Leste earlier this week has boosted the Lions’ confidence levels ahead of this clash, which will decide whether they progress to the semi-finals.

The equation is simple: victory in Bangkok guarantees a berth in the next round, a draw means they need Indonesia to beat the Philippines and a loss results in elimination.

The hosts are regarded as favourites and could fail to progress if they are defeated by Singapore, so they will not be short on motivation.

But Fandi Ahmad urged his side to believe in themselves and pull off the upset, having already defied the odds to still be in contention to progress from Group B.

“Nobody gave us a chance in this ‘Group of Death’,” he pointed out at the pre-match press conference at the Rajamangala Stadium earlier today. “At the end of the day, it’s (all) about the last game (now), so there’s always a chance when you play as a team; you are strong together, you are motivated. You have to work for one another.”

The 56-year-old went on to cite teamwork as the biggest factor that will influence the outcome of this clash and rallied the Lions to give their all from start to finish.

“This is the time for us to step up another level,” he declared. “Our players are ready. We know the Thais are very strong at home, they have good players, but we have our own plan and very importantly, we must stay compact.

“We trust our players, we believe they will play a good game, we will give Thailand a tough time and I think our compactness and discipline will help us a lot.

“I think our togetherness is very strong… Very importantly, we need to fight until the end, we never give up.

“We have to do what we have to do, we come here with no fear and win lose or draw, we will fight to the end.”

Fandi’s opposite number, Milovan Rajevac, cut a calm figure and insisted that the War Elephants have put their 1-1 draw against the Philippines behind them.

“We were unfortunate to concede against the Philippines and there is no additional pressure (to win tomorrow),” the 64-year-old Serb said. “We are all calm and focused and optimistic. We are also playing at home and the supporters will be our 12th man; we have faith that everything will go well for our team.”

Rajevac also conceded that while Thailand aim to play flowing football, the result is the “most important” and cited Singapore’s tactical discipline as their biggest strength.

Team News Shahril Ishak is out of the tournament with a dislocated shoulder but the Lions are otherwise at full strength.

The Thais are also at full strength and the dilemma for Rajevac is whether to stick with Chatchai Budprom between the sticks, or restore Siwarak Tedsungnoen to the line up after the former made a howler to gift the Azkals’ their equaliser in the last game.

Thailand’s form Two wins in as many games meant the Thais got off to a perfect start, but that run was halted when they were held by the Philippines. They are unbeaten in their last five matches, having entered this tournament on the back of successive 1-0 wins away to Trinidad and Tobago and Hong Kong.

Past meetings Thailand have won the last four encounters, once in each of the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Suzuki Cups – th latter two in the group stages – and in a friendly in 2015. Singapore’s last win was in the first leg of the 2012 final, where a 3-1 lead saw them survive a 1-0 away loss to win the trophy. The Lions pulled off a 1-0 win in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier in 2009 through Aleksandar Duric’s 37th-minute strike – that was the last time Singapore scored in Thailand, who have since won five and drew once in their six home encounters against Singapore.

Keep an eye out for… It’s hard to overlook Ikhsan Fandi and Zulfahmi Arifin, but the Thais will do well to shackle Safuwan Baharudin. The centre-back hit a superb hat-trick against Timor-Leste and has also been solid defensively in the Lions’ three matches to date. A fine reader of the game and a handful in the air, a commanding performance from the 27-year-old will be crucial to Singapore’s chances of getting a positive result.

Winger Pokklaw Anan is a potent threat on the flank and has already delivered some great killer passes in the tournament. The 27-year-old Bangkok United attacker is also capable of shooting from range and will look to create havoc alongside Sanrawat Dechmitr and Adisak Kraisorn.

What else they said… Hariss Harun was also in attendance at the press conference and noted that while the Timor-Leste result has given the team a boost, they have to improve against the Thais. He also dismissed the fact that the Thais are missing star names like Chanathip Songkrasin, Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan, saying: “We don’t make too much of it, this Thai team has quality within their team, for us we have to really prepare well and not take things easy.”

Follow the game oktoSports will broadcast the game LIVE, which will also be shown online at Toggle. The official Suzuki Cup Facebook page and YouTube channel will also live-stream the match.