National Team - Lions ● Nov 15, 2021
Lions to face Morocco A’ in final match in Dubai
The Lions during training in Dubai, 13 November 2021
DUBAI, 15 NOVEMBER 2021 – The Singapore Men’s National Team will play the second and final match of their training camp in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) tomorrow.
Tatsuma Yoshida’s charges will take on Morocco A’ in a training match at the Al Hamriyah Sports Club Stadium, where they had lost 2-1 to the Kyrgyz Republic last Thursday, as they continue their preparations for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2020. Kick-off will be at 5pm local time (9pm SGT) behind closed doors, with no broadcast; there will be updates across the FAS social media platforms.
Despite the defeat four days earlier in the international friendly, the Japanese tactician was satisfied enough with the team’s efforts and the opportunity to play an opponent of a higher calibre. It also marked the return to action with the Lions for Safuwan Baharudin and Ikhsan Fandi, both of whom last featured in November 2019, having been ruled out due to injury in June during World Cup qualifying.
Tatsuma is aware that the Lions’ next opponent will be a different prospect altogether. The Morocco A’ team was formed to participate in the African Championship of Nations (CHAN), which exclusively features players who are active in each country’s domestic leagues. While this is not the primary national football team of Morocco, which is ranked 29th in the world by FIFA, the A’ side will still pose a formidable challenge. They are helmed by Hussein Ammouta, who led them to the 2020 CHAN title – their second consecutive triumph in the competition, making them the only side to achieve the feat after they first won in 2018.
Amy Recha (white) battles Iqram Rifqi for the ball during training, 13 November 2021
Furthermore, Ammouta has called up 12 overseas-based players – primarily from Asia – for his 27-man squad this time, as they utilise this match as part of preparations for the FIFA Arab Cup that begins on 30 November in Qatar. The team includes 11 players from the 2020 CHAN-winning squad and seven from the 2018 edition; of the 15 Morocco-based players, five hail from current champions Wydad AC and four from runners-up Raja Casablanca. Some have also been capped by the primary Morocco national team, such as midfielder Mohamed Chibi, who debuted earlier this month in a World Cup qualifier against Sudan. Other notable names are winger Soufiane Rahimi, who finished as the Morocco league’s third-top scorer (14 goals, four behind the top scorer) and tallied the most assists (12) last season and is currently playing with UAE outfit Al-Ain, and Raja striker Hamid Ahadad, who is the current second-top scorer in the Morocco league with four goals in eight matches. Goalkeeper Mohamed Amsif, who currently plays for Faith Union Sport, was born in Germany and has represented them at Under-18, U19 and U20 level, and made 25 Bundesliga appearances for Augsburg between 2011 to 2013.
The Morocco A’ come into this off the back of a 3-2 friendly win against Bahrain in Manama on 12 November, as well as 2-0 and 2-1 wins over South Sudan and Sierra Leone respectively last month.
“This Morocco team is of a different level and we have maybe not played anyone of this level before,” Tatsuma told FAS.org.sg. “We have some information about them and their style of play but… we don’t need to focus too much on the opponent because this is a training camp, which is an opportunity for us to learn and we have to improve through playing such high-level opponents.”
With unlimited substitutions being allowed as this will not be an international ‘A’ friendly, Tatsuma will be able to give playing time to all members of the squad if he chooses to. While Safuwan, Zulfahmi Arifin and Irfan Fandi have returned to join their clubs, midfielder M. Anumanthan is set to feature, having only joined the Lions after the Kyrgyz match. Regardless of playing personnel, Tatsuma emphasised the importance of taking risks.
“This will be a good opportunity and a good chance for us and our boys have to try to play their best, show what they can do,” he said. “If we do not try (to put into practice what we have done in training) throughout the match, we will not be able to find any possibilities (to get better) and know where we have to improve. I do not want to (sit back and) protect the goal, we have to try and I want the boys to try to win the ball, try to beat the pressing from them.
“If they make mistakes, never mind; trying is the most important thing for us as this is an opportunity to prepare for the Suzuki Cup. I want to see the players trying to find the solutions to problems on the pitch, trying to play their best and to showcase their full potential.”
View this post on Instagram
The Lions will wrap up preparations in Dubai after this match and are set to arrive in Singapore on Wednesday, where the build-up to the Suzuki Cup will continue. Tatsuma noted that there is still some time before the team’s opening Group A fixture against Myanmar on 5 December and it is crucial to peak at the right time.
“We do not need to be at our 100 per cent now as it is more about building up towards the tournament at this point,” he said. “Of course, that first match is very important and we must play with 100 per cent on 5 December but actually, our full potential is more; we have more potential (to get better than we are right now). I believe in the boys and I always tell them that they can improve to a higher level.”