National Team - Lions ● Jun 06, 2024

Ogura’s Lions prepare for battle against Kim’s Warriors


Coach Tsutomu Ogura and Lions defender Safuwan Baharudin at the pre-match press conference yesterday, June 2024. 


SINGAPORE, 6 JUNE 2024 – The date of 6 June 2024 was always going to be a highly anticipated one on the local football calendar once the draw for Round 2 qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 was announced. A sold out Singapore National Stadium will see the Lions play host to Korea Republic, the current Group C leaders, as they look to make further progress under Head Coach, Tsutomu Ogura.


Singapore’s journey under Ogura began with a commendable 2-2 draw against China at the Singapore National Stadium in March. Despite a 4-1 loss in the reverse fixture in Tianjin, the team would have felt they made China work hard for their victory. Currently, Singapore sits at the bottom of Group C with one point, while Korea Republic leads the group with 10 points from three wins and a draw. The top two nations from each of the nine groups will advance to the third round, beginning in September this year.


Ogura has a 28-man squad for his selection for the upcoming games against Korea Republic and five days later, away to Thailand. This includes a mix of experienced players and newcomers who have impressed at the club level. Notable inclusions are Jordan Emaviwe, the towering Balestier Khalsa centre-back, and Raoul Suhaimi, the 18-year-old Young Lions defender, both of whom are marking their first senior call-ups. Other names that have returned to the national team fold are Nur Adam Abdullah, Farhan Zulkifli, Taufik Suparno, Amirul Adli, Joshua Pereira, Hairul Syirhan, Christopher Van Huizen, and Hami Syahin.


Coach Ogura at the pre-match press conference yesterday, June 2024. 


Speaking ahead of the match, Ogura commented: “I know that South Korea is one of the best teams in Asia, we respect them because many of their players are playing for top clubs in Europe and they have vast international experience having played in the Asian Cup and the World Cup. But we will be trying our best.”


Local football fans will spot a familiar face on the technical bench of Korea Republic. Kim Do-Hoon is the interim head coach of the Taegeuk Warriors, his appointment being confirmed just over a fortnight ago. The former head coach of Singapore Premier League (SPL) side Lion City Sailors (LCS) during the 2021/22 season, Kim will be familiar with no less than seven players in the current Singapore squad, having coached the likes of Amirul, Noor Adam, Hami, Hariss Harun, Hassan Sunny, Song Uiyoung and Faris Ramli during his 15-month tenure in Singapore and leading them to the SPL championship. Ogura was not oblivious to this fact: “He (Kim Do-Hoon) knows a lot about Singapore football, probably more than me as he has spent a few years working in Singapore. He will know about not just the players who were in LCS but also the other players that played his team played against in the SPL.”


For his first international foray, Kim has introduced seven players who have never previously played for the senior national team. This group includes former youth stars such as forward Oh Se-hun of FC Machida Zelvia, midfielder Bae Jun-ho of Stoke City, and defenders Hwang Jae-won of Daegu FC and Choi Jun of FC Seoul. Additionally, goalkeeper Hwang In-jae, and defenders Park Seung-wook and Ha Chang-rae have been called up for the first time. These players join experienced figures such as longtime captain Son Heung-min, midfielders Lee Kang-in and Hwang In-beom, and defender Kim Jin-su. However, the team will miss key players Kim Min-jae due to injury and Cho Gue-sung, who is set to undergo knee surgery.


Safuwan at the pre-match press conference yesterday, June 2024. 


Singapore defender Safuwan Baharudin is aware of the challenge posed by Korea Republic, who are currently ranked 23rd in the world, but remain undeterred, saying: “I have been playing in Malaysia for a number of years, and to have comments passed my way about how they were able to draw against Korea (in the Asian Cup), was something that I took personally. I see it as a form of motivation when I see our neighbouring countries doing well, be it in the Asian Cup or in the World Cup qualifiers. It shows the level of where they are and we know that we are not that far away either but we have been inconsistent with our results, and that’s been frustrating.”


Ogura was appreciative of the local supporters coming out in full force on match day, as he acknowledged the key role that the Singapore fans played in helping to motivate the team: “We have to concentrate for the full 90 plus minutes of the game and fight as hard as we can. If we can show to our fans that we are doing our best, then it will help add on to the atmosphere and inspire the return of the ‘Kallang Roar’ amongst the supporters.”




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