National Team - Lions ● Mar 27, 2024

Post-Match Report: FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Qualifiers – China PR vs. Singapore (26 March 2024)

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China PR’s Gao Zhunyi with Singapore’s Song Uiyoung in action, March 2024. 

 

TIANJIN, 26 MARCH 2024 – It may have been a David vs Goliath encounter on paper but based on their performance last week, Singapore was not going to be overawed by their opponents going into this second game against China in five days.

 

 

In a clash fraught with tension and anticipation at the Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium, the Lions exhibited strong resolve for large parts of the game against a formidable Chinese side in their Group C World Cup qualifier. Despite showcasing moments of brilliance, Singapore ultimately succumbed to a 4-1 defeat in front of a fervent crowd of 42,977 spectators.

 

 

Faris Ramli (centre) celebrating with teammates Shah Shahiran (left) and Shawal Anuar (right) after swiftly equalising China in the 21st minute, March 2024. 

 

 

The match began expectedly with China asserting their dominance early on and they looked to prove a point to their fans. They duly broke the deadlock in the 21st minute when Wu Lei exploited a defensive lapse to breach Singapore’s defences and calmly lobbed the ball past goalkeeper Hassan Sunny’s despairing dive. However, Singapore’s response was swift and emphatic as from the restart, Hariss Harun’s long pass to Ryhan Stewart resulted in a precise cross to Faris Ramli who rose highest to head home and restore parity, stunning the home crowd with a well-taken equalizer.

 

 

The first half ended in a deadlock, with both teams showcasing moments of attacking flair tempered by resolute defending. However, the complexion of the game changed dramatically in the second half, marred by controversy and pivotal decisions that would shape the outcome.

 

 

Coach Ogura at the post-match press conference, March 2024. 

 

In the 65th minute, a contentious penalty call went in favour of China, with Fei Nanduo stepping up to convert from the spot and tilt the momentum in favour of the hosts. The decision left Singapore aggrieved, with coach Tsutomu Ogura voicing his frustration at the post-match press conference, highlighting the game-changing nature of the call.

 

 

Despite the setback, Singapore rallied valiantly, buoyed by a fervent desire to salvage a result against the odds. Their resolve was tested further when they were reduced to ten men following Li Yuanyi’s dismissal in the 80th minute for a brutal scything challenge on substitute Joel Chew. It was double misery for Singapore as not only were they not able to utilise the numerical advantage with Chew forced to go off with a serious leg injury, but no further substitutions could also be made as the Lions had already used their full quota of five.

 

 

Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny in action, March 2024. 

 

Wu Lei, who had been Singapore’s main tormentor in the previous match, demonstrated his pedigree as China’s talismanic figure, as he delivered a masterclass in the closing stages of the game. He showcased sublime individual skill to notch a solo goal in the 85th minute. The Chinese captain for the night then turned provider, orchestrating a swift counterattack that culminated in Wei Shihao tapping in a fourth goal in the dying moments of the match.

 

 

The defeat leaves Singapore staying rooted at the bottom of Group C with just one point from four matches, while China ascends to second place with seven points. South Korea maintains their stranglehold on the group summit with ten points following a convincing 3-0 victory over Thailand.

 

 

Ikhsan Fandi in action, March 2024.

 

Looking ahead, Singapore faces a daunting task in their remaining fixtures against South Korea and Thailand. The Lions must summon every ounce of their resilience and determination to mount a credible challenge for progression, knowing that their fate hangs delicately in the balance.

 

Despite the disappointment of defeat, Singapore’s performances against China serve as a testament to their unwavering spirit and newfound potential on the international stage. Coach Ogura’s tenure may be in its nascent stages, but the signs of progress and promise are unmistakable, providing a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead in Singaporean football.

 

 

Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Glenn Kweh 46’), Ryhan Stewart, Nazrul Nazari, Irfan Fandi, Jacob Mahler (Zulfahmi Arifin 70’),  Harhys Stewart (Joel Chew 76’), Hariss Harun (C), Shah Shahiran, Shawal Anuar (Ikhsan Fandi 59’), Faris Ramli (Song Uiyoung 59’)
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Fairuz Fazli, Kieran Teo, Irfan Najeeb, Jared Gallagher, Daniel Goh

 

 

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