National Teams – Age-group ● Mar 18, 2019
U22s ready for AFC U23 Championship Qualifiers
GOTEMBA, 18 MARCH 2019 – They have spent the better part of the last two weeks training in Japan and the time has now come for the Under-22 National Team to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifiers.
Fandi Ahmad’s charges will travel to Mongolia today for the tournament, where they will face Hong Kong in the opening match on 22 March. They will then take on DPR Korea two days later and round off the campaign on 26 March against the hosts.
During the past 11 days in Gotemba, the team trained daily and also played two friendlies against Kokushikan University and Tokai University, which ended in a 4-0 loss and 1-1 draw respectively.
Head Coach Fandi said: “The training camp has been good exposure for the team and I am happy with the attitude of the boys in terms of understanding the way we want to play and should play. We can also see the improvement in the fitness and aggression in our players.
“The two matches also showed us what we needed to bring to Mongolia. We lost the first game to a strong university team, whose players were very physical and aggressive but the boys fought hard and kept going. On top of that, we gave all the players a chance to play against this team, which is one of the top teams in their university league.
“We worked on our technical and tactical aspects after the first game and were tactically better in the second game against another strong university team. Our fitness level has gone up and it showed in the second game, where I thought we did very well as we created more chances.”
Defenders Lionel Tan and Danish Irfan believe that the time spent together has stood the team in good stead for the upcoming challenges.
Lionel said: “Personally, I feel the training camp has been very beneficial to the team, especially to the boys who are students and serving the country. The team has been working very hard in terms of tactics; together with the coaches, we try our best in training and work really hard. When it came to the matches, everyone gave their best and I hope that we can bring this spirit to the qualifiers as well.”
Danish added: “It was difficult for us in the beginning because we didn’t play together much before, especially the club players. It got better for us after a few training sessions because we have a better understanding of how each other play and how coach wants us to play.
“The two matches also helped us as a team and as individuals, as we analysed what we did wrong and worked on certain areas.”
Defender Irfan Najeeb and forward Ikhsan Fandi, who joined the team a few days into the training camp, will bolster the U22s further.
Fandi said: “We would like to thank MCCY, MINDEF, MHA, SAFSA and SportSG for their support in releasing players to join us for the training camp and qualifiers. To have players like Irfan Najeeb, Lionel, Amiruldin (Asraf) and Amirul (Haikal) here gives the team a boost and more options to play.”
The team will unfortunately miss the services of key player Justin Hui, who has been ruled out due to injury, though fellow midfielder Hami Syahin is recovering well from his medial collateral ligament injury.
Fandi added: “We are the only ASEAN country playing in winter and we have a number of young players who are below 20 years old. It will be difficult but we are quite confident that we can spring a surprise and try to do a good job there. Hopefully, the players are up for it and understand it is crucial for us to win the first game.”
Echoing their head coach’s sentiments, Danish and Lionel are determined for the team to give their all.
Danish commented: “Every game will be tough for us but if we fight well together as a team and stay disciplined, I think we can go far in the tournament.”
Lionel asserted: “This is a competition where we have to do Singapore proud and it has been quite a while since Singapore has qualified for it. We will give our all to compete with the teams and fight for the win.”