AffSuzukiCup2020 ● Dec 07, 2021
Lions shift focus to Philippines in AFF Suzuki Cup 2020
Song Uiyoung applauds the spectators, 5 December 2021
SINGAPORE, 7 DECEMBER 2021 – After a victorious start to their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2020 campaign, Singapore will now turn their attentions to their second Group A game on Wednesday night.
The Lions take on the Philippines at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub after a 3-0 opening win over Myanmar on Sunday – a sixth opening victory in 13 editions – that sees them top the group.
It was the first time since a 4-3 friendly win over Solomon Islands in June 2019 that they scored at least three goals in a game and there was also a first clean sheet in 10 internationals since a 0-0 friendly draw against Jordan in October 2019.
Several Lions turned it on during the opener including South Korea-born Song Uiyoung, who impressed many with his tireless 81-minute shift on his competitive debut.
Constantly scurrying to win the ball back and swiftly spreading it out to launch quick counter-attacks, the 28-year-old played an integral role to set up the Lions’ second goal by Ikhsan Fandi and came off to a standing ovation by the home fans.
“It was my first game in front of the Singapore fans, so I was very well motivated and encouraged to show what I can do for my country,” the 28-year-old told FAS.org.sg. “I never imagined this, but I almost wanted to cry when I was singing the National Anthem because it was just such a special moment for me.
“I just tried to do my best to carry out Coach Tatsuma’s (Yoshida) orders and work hard for the team. It still was not a 100 per cent performance from us, but I believe we will be better for the upcoming games. With the support from our fans, it will give us the courage to do well in this tournament.”
Hassan Sunny makes a catch, 5 December 2021
Similarly, goalkeeper Hassan Sunny acknowledged the room for improvement ahead of bigger tests coming up.
“There were quite a few mistakes and lapses of concentration, which we expected would happen due to the lack of games we had together in the past two years,” said the 37-year-old, who earned his 87th cap.
“We (him and centre-backs Irfan Fandi and Safuwan Baharudin) only started one game together, in the 2-1 friendly defeat to Kyrgyz Republic before the tournament. I am not giving any excuses, but we definitely need more time to gel together. As time goes by, our understanding will surely be better.”
Thirty four places above Singapore at 126th in the FIFA rankings and having made the semi-finals in four out of the last five AFF Suzuki Cup campaigns, the Philippines will provide a stern test.
View this post on Instagram
That is despite not having the iconic Younghusband brothers James and Phil, now-retired, for the first time in over a decade. They are also unable to call upon European-based players like Neil Etheridge, Gerrit Holtmann and Raphael Obermair as they were not released from club duties.
But the Azkals still have plenty of pedigree at their disposal, including Jesper Nyholm, who represents Swedish top-flight club Djurgårdens IF and veteran striker Ángel Guirado, who suits up for Spanish fifth division side Alhaurín de la Torre CF. Experienced forward Patrick Reichelt, who scored in the 1-0 win the last time both sides met in the 2018 edition, is also one of seven players who are plying their trade in Thailand.
In captain Stephan Schröck, who used to play in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt and newly-naturalised Spain-born forward Bienvenido Marañón, the AFC Cup’s all-time top scorer, Scott Cooper’s side have two bona-fide match-winners.
Since 2011, the Philippines have three wins and two draws in the seven most recent meetings with Singapore.
Nonetheless, the Lions will go out with all guns blazing for a victory to put them in the driving seat to qualify for the semi-finals, as they look to learn from the past. In 2018, an opening 1-0 win over Indonesia was followed by a 1-0 defeat to the Philippines in Manila next and that proved crucial as they eventually finished third behind the latter.
Irfan Fandi heads the ball, 5 December 2021
“We did speak amongst ourselves about this during our players’ meetings,” Hassan said. “We have players like Hariss (Harun), Safuwan and Shahdan (Sulaiman), who have all been with the National Team for a while – for myself, this is my eighth Suzuki Cup.
“So, we all have experienced this – failing in the last few minutes of the game and struggling to hold on, which has cost us qualification. In 2018, we were a bit more careful. But now, we are approaching every game with a winning mentality. It is a marathon, not a sprint so we cannot be happy with one win and just settle for less in other games.
“This year, we have a good blend of experienced and young players. We are playing on home ground and the players are feeling positive now after scoring three goals against Myanmar.”
With a tight schedule between games, Coach Tatsuma is likely to make some changes and Song is ready to do his part, no matter his role.
“It is a long tournament so it is difficult to play with your best players every three days,” he acknowledged. “But as players, we always need to be ready whenever Coach needs us and I am prepared to play the full 90 minutes for the team.
“I really want to score my first goal for Singapore, but the priority is to help the team and get the three points.”
- 95 different players have made at least one appearance for Singapore in the Suzuki Cup.
- If he starts, Safuwan Baharudin will make his 19th consecutive start for Singapore.
- Zulfahmi Arifin and Shahdan Sulaiman will win their 50th and 70th cap if they are involved.