National Team - Lions ● Jun 06, 2022
Lions gear up to face Kyrgyz Republic in opening Asian Cup Qualifier
Takayuki Nishigaya oversees training, 5 June 2022
BISHKEK, 6 JUNE 2022 – The opportunity to make history starts this Wednesday for the Singapore Men’s National Team when they face the Kyrgyz Republic in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup™ 2023 Qualifiers Final Round campaign.
It is the first of three Group F matches at the Dolen Omuzakov Stadium that will determine whether the Lions can qualify for Asia’s showpiece international tournament next year, after their sole appearance as hosts in 1984.
After the international friendly against Kuwait a week ago in Abu Dhabi, the team arrived in the capital city of Bishkek on Friday from Dubai to continue their preparations and is looking forward to their Group F opener. The six group winners and five best second-placed teams will advance to the Finals.
Takayuki Nishigaya has singled out some areas to work on from the 2-0 defeat in the United Arab Emirates, with the significance of the qualifiers not lost on him. “So far, preparation has been good,” he told FAS.org.sg. “We have been reminding the players of our attacking and defending concepts; yesterday we focused on how the Kyrgyz Republic play and today we will focus on attack. We will not change our style of play but of course, we have to adjust and make some changes to our strategies against them.”
Hariss Harun at training, 5 June 2022
Captain Hariss Harun added that the Lions could “take some heart” from the performance against Kuwait despite the loss and noted that while there is bound to be an adjustment period under a new Head Coach, the team has been getting to grips with the methods.
“He is getting us to transit better (both) between defence and attack, and attack and defense; he is asking us to be a bit more sharp in that sense,” he told FAS.org.sg. “We have done it before and we are capable, definitely. I think there is not much of a difference from what we are used to from Coach Tatsuma (Yoshida)… it should not take that long. What matters is the crucial three games, we want to be there (Asian Cup) and we know we have to prepare well and get the results.
“I think we are in good spirits and having been in the hotel together here for a while now, it helps (the bonding). It is a new place with new things that we are being exposed to, but nevertheless I think it has been alright in terms of preparation. We are just waiting for the games to start and to get going.”
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The White Falcons, ranked 63 places above Singapore at 95th in the world, will not be unfamiliar opponents. They ran out 2-1 victors in an international friendly on 11 November last year in Dubai, which was the third meeting between both sides. Aleksandr Krestinin led them to a historic maiden qualification for the AFC Asian Cup in the 2019 edition and the hosts are favourites to make it two in a row as the highest-ranked side in Group F – the other two sides, Tajikistan and Myanmar, are at 114th and 152nd respectively.
Centre-back Valery Kichin, who is half-Russian and plies his trade in Russia, captains the Kyrgyz Republic and the 29-year-old is one of their key players. At the other end, 32-year-old forward Mirlan Murzayev is a reliable presence and the Kyrgyz Republic’s all-time leading scorer has five goals in his last four international appearances. The livewire attacking midfielder Gulzhigit Alykulov, the 2019 Kyrgyz Republic Footballer of the Year who made his international debut at 18 the same year, is also one for the Lions to keep tabs on.
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The hosts are expected to receive boisterous support at the 23,000-capacity venue and both Nishigaya and Hariss called on the Lions to keep level heads in their quest for qualification.
“We know that the situation is that they have home advantage, with a lot of fans coming to the stadium to support,” the Japanese said. “But if we have a strong mentality, we will be able to cope with this situation. Of course, tactics are important but the most important thing is how we achieve a strong mentality and confidence to play the game. Every single game here is like a final and if we (approach them and) play like that, we will be able to cope.”
“It is going to be tough because it is against the home team,” Hariss added. “They will try to play fast, aggressively and be on the front foot. We have to contain that and at the same time, be efficient in getting upfront to score goals.
“They will definitely try to ride on their advantage but I think for us, we just need to be calm and trust each other because I believe as a team, we are really a solid bunch; we just need to find a way to win. All the opponents in this group are higher-ranked than us… but it is not beyond us. We have to believe that we can get the results. I believe in in my teammates, in our team, that we can get the job done.
“The prize of qualifying for the Asian Cup is a huge incentive for us as players, as a football fraternity, as a whole for Singapore football. A lot is at stake to look forward to and play for; that in itself is good enough motivation for us.”
The match kicks off at 11pm, Singapore time, and will be streamed LIVE on the FAS’ YouTube channel.