National Team - Lions ● Nov 15, 2023
Test of mental and physical strength in Seoul for Lions
Song Ui-young and Ryhan Stewart in a training session at Goyang Stadium, Seoul, November 2023.
SEOUL, 15 NOVEMBER 2023 – The temperature may have dipped to a chilling single digit when the Singapore National Men’s ‘A’ Team touched down at Incheon Airport three days ago, but it was clear that their determination was anything but faltering.
The Lions had looked to acclimatise themselves to the weather as soon as possible and understandably so, given that most of the players were more used to playing in the tropical climates back home in the Southeast Asian region.
Takayuki Nishigaya’s men start off their second-round qualification route with an away fixture to 24th ranked Korea Republic on 16 November in front of a sold out 66,000 capacity Seoul World Cup stadium.
Adam Swandi and Amirul Adli in a training session at Goyang Stadium, Seoul, November 2023.
The players were put through their paces over the last few days as Nishigaya pieced together his plans on how the team should face the Taegeug Warriors, led by German ex-international football legend, Jurgen Klinsmann. The Korea Republic head coach is not taking this match lightly, having called up his best possible squad with the likes of captain Son Heung-min spearheading the team’s attack, alongside Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in, while Bayern’s Kim Min-Jae is expected to marshal the defence.
Singapore have welcomed the return of some notable names of their own, with Safuwan Baharudin being part of the squad once again after being medically cleared to return to international duty. Siblings Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi are reunited with younger brother Ilhan as the trio will look to get back to playing integral roles within the team after overcoming their respective injuries over the last year.
For one Singaporean player, the match against Korea Republic will be particularly significant in more ways than one. Should he start the game, Song Uiyoung will find himself in an almost surreal position when he takes to the field donning the Singapore jersey to face off against his former compatriots. The Incheon native was granted Singapore citizenship in August 2021 but could not have imagined that he would have the opportunity to play against his country of birth, much less in a World Cup qualifier, in front of his family and friends.
Should he start the game, Song will find himself in an almost surreal position when he takes to the field donning the Singapore jersey to face off against his former compatriots, November 2023.
“I am very much looking forward to this match for sure, I have strong motivation to face them (Korea Republic). Everyone knows that South Korea has world class players, so I want to be able to play against them in real life instead of seeing them on TV. By playing in this type of high-level match, I expect myself, as well as my teammates, to improve our playing levels and standards so that we can perform better when we play against Thailand and China.
“I know that this first game will be a full house, almost 66,000 fans will be there, so I am very excited. I want to show that as a group, as the Singapore National Team, we can do it”, said the 30-year old attacking midfielder.
Song arrived in Singapore in 2011, at the young age of 18 years old to ply his trade in the then S-League with Home United (now Lion City Sailors), and he reflected on the journey that football has taken him: “I started having a passion for football at 10 years old and that was when I knew I wanted to be a professional footballer. I didn’t think such an opportunity like this would come when I was growing up and now that it has, I am very appreciative to have received it. I am especially grateful to Singapore, the Singapore fans and the FAS for helping me get to where I am now and in return, I am going to give my one hundred percent effort and work hard. This is what I have to do and what I want to do. I am ready to do my best for Singapore in this upcoming game.”
Captain Hariss Harun is undeterred and has urged his teammates to leave a lasting impression on their opponents by giving everything they have, November 2023.
Based on historical evidence and the current gulf in FIFA rankings, the odds on paper are stacked against Singapore. The two teams have met 27 times in total with Korea Republic triumphing on 22 of those occasions and only three have resulted in stalemates. But captain Hariss Harun is undeterred and has urged his teammates to leave a lasting impression on their opponents by giving everything they have. “The onus is on them, being the home team and the favourites as the top ranked team in Group C, to go out there and get the result. It is a case of how we as a team can stay organised and be well prepared for what is to come our way. We have seen what these players are capable of but seeing and playing against them for real are two different things, so we have to be ready for the challenge on Thursday.”
The Lions will host Thailand at the Singapore National Stadium for their second Group C match on 21 November while Korea Republic will travel to China.
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