National Team - Lions ● Nov 08, 2018

Preview: Singapore will not sit back against Indonesia, says Fandi

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SINGAPORE, 8 NOVEMBER 2018
The Lions take on Indonesia in a highly anticipated 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup Group B opener tomorrow night, 9 November, at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. Kick-off is at 8pm.

Background This is it. Fandi Ahmad will face his first competitive test since taking over as Singapore Head Coach when Indonesia come calling on Friday night, having done his best to prepare the team since being appointed in May.

“I am proud to be Singaporean and proud to be given a chance,” the 56-year-old legend said at the pre-match press conference on Thursday evening at the National Stadium. “I am looking forward to it because it’s everybody’s dream, especially after a playing career…(to helm) their national team.”

Fandi is aware of the challenge facing him. Indonesia represent a different and far stiffer opposition from what he has experienced in four friendlies to date, which saw the Lions draw with Mauritius and then reel off three straight wins against Fiji, Mongolia and Cambodia.

Defeated finalists in the 2016 edition, they impressed at the recent Asian Games and were eliminated by the United Arab Emirates on penalties in the last 16 after topping their group.

“Indonesia is a very strong team lately, they’ve been doing very well, they have very, very fast players,” Fandi said. “They are different from previous years I’ve seen, they are very dangerous on the break… They are technically very strong, they are mobile, the one-two touches and movement (are good).”

But the Lions have impressed supporters with a newfound offensive approach that emphasises playing more on the ground and Fandi was adamant that his charges will take the game to the Garuda.

“We have to be aware that as much as we want to attack and score goals, we have to look at the back as well – but that doesn’t mean we are going to sit back,” he vowed.

Fandi went on to emphasis the importance of working as a unit, the value of which he has preached during his time in charge, noting that the recent training stint in Osaka has reinforced the team spirit.

“In terms of team bonding, teamwork, we’ve established good, positive signs,” he said. “We’ve expressed the desire for them to work as a team, most importantly they have to work for one another… We want to be strong in terms of teamwork, defending, dedication and discipline.

“Above all, I think our motivational factor is very strong; we want to do well because in the last two editions, we were out early, so hopefully we can capitalise on our teamwork.

“Everyone must know their individual roles and just play for the team. We can’t stop how Indonesia play, but we know what we are supposed to do.”

His counterpart, Bima Sakti, only took charge of Indonesia three weeks ago and like Fandi, is a former international who is regarded highly by the locals back home. Apart from the pair, only one other country at this Suzuki Cup has a fellow countryman in charge – Malaysia under Tan Cheng Hoe.

Interestingly, Bima was part of the Indonesia side that beat Singapore 2-1 at the 1997 Southeast Asian Games semi-finals – both he and Fandi were on the scoresheet in what was the latter’s final international tournament.

Now 42, Bima is cautious of being overconfident of his team’s chances tomorrow night.

“We will try to play like we are at home tomorrow, but I think it is difficult because this is the first game and players may be a little bit nervous,” he said. “I think now, the Singapore team is stronger; they have good players, especially the strikers. Also, they have good organisation in defence and attack and in transition… tomorrow, we must prepare for a tough game.”

Team News The Lions should have a full-strength squad to call upon. Andik Vermansyah was only called up last week by Indonesia as a late replacement for Saddil Ramdani, who was dropped after being embroiled in legal issues.

Indonesia’s form A 4-1 home loss to Iceland in January has been followed by a three-match unbeaten streak, which saw the Garuda beat Mauritius 1-0 and Myanmar 3-0, before being held 1-1 by Hong Kong. This match against Singapore will be their first away fixture of the calendar year. In fact, the last time Indonesia played away was in June 2017 – nine matches ago, which they won 2-0 against Cambodia.

Past meetings Singapore have suffered defeat in their last two clashes with Indonesia, which came in the group stages of the 2012 and 2016 Suzuki Cups. Prior to that, the Lions racked up three straight victories, the last of which came in a friendly in 2007.

Keep an eye out for… With three goals in his last four matches, Ikhsan Fandi will lead the Lions’ attack. The 19-year-old, who opened his Singapore account against Mauritius in September, has it all to be a modern number nine – pace, power, skill. With eight caps under his belt, exposure at his first competitive outing will help hone his development further.

Andik will look to score against Singapore for a third consecutive outing, but all eyes are likely to be on Alberto Goncalves or “Beto”, as he is known. The naturalised Brazilian striker only made his debut this year but has scored once in each of his two matches and will be Indonesia’s biggest attacking threat.

What else they said… Fandi is confident he has found a solution to the number ten role, but was not about to give anything away. “It’s still a secret!” he laughed.

He also praised Team Mentor, Noh Alam Shah, for helping to make his job easier. “He’s a very good right-hand man, he talks to the players and encourages them… He’s very positive about the team and the players love him to be around. He’s very fierce, I am very scared of him!”

Continuing with the jokes, Fandi had a unique take on how to stop flying winger Febri Haryandi: “If he is speeding, then we have our police to patrol (catch) him!”

Hariss Harun was also in attendance and ahead of his first Suzuki Cup as captain, he wants the team to enter it with the right mindset: “The boys are eager to go out and show what they can do… We have to remember we are playing at home, the boys have to trust each other and believe in themselves. I think it’s more important on the psychological side; physically we’ve been preparing well over the course of the last two months (but) in these high-stakes games… it’s important to be ready mentally. I think the boys are setting up very well and we hope to do well tomorrow.”

Follow the game oktoSports will broadcast the game LIVE, which will also be shown online at Toggle.