National Team - Lions ● Mar 16, 2023
Interview with Singapore Head Coach Takayuki Nishigaya – March 2023 FIFA International Window
We’ve called up a number of new faces to the squad. What will they bring to the team?
This window gives me the opportunity to have a look at a number of different players who have not been exposed to international football before. The players who I have named in this squad have played well so far domestically in the SPL for their clubs, but it is important for them to have a taste of international football and understand exactly what the level of intensity is required.
The younger players also need this exposure, so they know what is required. The other coaches and I are watching every game and my message to all players is that we want to see you performing at a good level week-in-week-out and to show us that you deserve to be part of the National Team.
Tampines Rovers midfielder Joel Chew is among the five players to receive their first call up to the National Team. Image credits: Singapore Premier League
What are your expectations for the team and the new players?
International football is a significant step up from domestic football and it is important that we do two things: from a physical standpoint, we need to raise the level of intensity in how we play. This starts from how the players train, their ability to apply the instructions by the coaching team consistently throughout the game, being first to the ball, pressing our opponents while being compact at the back.
The second area is our mindset, where our players need to adopt a winning and professional mentality, in terms of discipline on and off the pitch, and their preparation for training and matches. It is the minimum that I expect from the team as we have the privilege and responsibility of representing the country.
We are missing a number of experienced players in the squad. Do they still have a future in our National Team?
We do have a number of players who are out with long-term injuries and others who have just returned to train and play. We are in regular communications with the clubs, and we are also aware of the loading and injury history of some of the players which is part of the reason we have not brought them with us for this window. I am fully aware of what they bring to the team and to be honest, they are still performing at a very high level.
At the end of the day, the best players must be part of our National Team. This is also an opportunity for me to have a look at other players and a challenge to them to show me that they can compete at this level and that they are willing to fight for their place in the team. We can only improve if there is competition.
What are you looking forward to seeing out of these two International Friendly matches?
I want to see the team adopt the same competitive mindset and approach each game with a winning mentality, regardless of whether it’s a friendly or a match in a major tournament. This cannot be something that we only do for just one game, but it needs to be in every game whenever we are representing the country.
We had a disappointing end to the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup. What are the lessons we can take away from the tournament?
While we had some positive moments such as our performance at home against the top ranked Asean team, Vietnam, we were unable to follow that up in our final group game against Malaysia. We were not good enough that day and what was disappointing was that I knew we could play so much better. At international level, teams will punish us if we are unable to match the opponents in terms of intensity and be competitive in the physical battles. The team and I reflected on where we fell short, and we will be working on these areas to improve.