National Team - Lions ● Oct 11, 2018
Preview: Discipline key for Singapore against Mongolia
SINGAPORE, 11 OCTOBER 2018 – The Lions go again this Friday, 12 October as they play Mongolia in Fandi Ahmad’s third match at the helm. Kick-off at Bishan Stadium is at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at fas.org.sg/tickets!
Background The Men’s National Team continue their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup with a third consecutive friendly at home.
Fandi has called up 29 players for this match, as well as next Tuesday’s (16 October) away clash against Cambodia and will continue to experiment with different set-ups and tactics, following a 1-1 draw against Mauritius and 2-0 victory over Fiji last month.
He is happy with what he has seen in training so far, with the players gathering for the first time earlier this Monday.
“It is very competitive (and I see) lots of aggression,” Fandi said at the pre-match press conference on earlier this afternoon at Oasia Hotel. “I can see everyone wants to fight for their spot in the team… We’re quite happy with the performance and the commitment of the players.”
Winger Gabriel Quak, who plays for Royal Thai Navy FC, concurred: “For all 29 of us, even in training, it is very tense and competitive. It’s good that we are giving coach a (selection) headache and I think for the games against Mongolia and Cambodia, all of us are eager to play. I think everybody will have their fair share of playing time to prove (themselves)… So I think we should all look forward to these two games to show what we can do.”
As for Mongolia, football is on the rise and Head Coach Michael Weiss has done his best to expose the team to more matches as they look to catch up to other teams in the region.
“We have played around 20 matches over the past one and a half years, something which they’ve never played in the prior eight to nine years added together,” said the German, who took charge last January.
“What we did was to go to Japan, China and Korea to have camps to give them exposure and play stronger teams… We are trying to take (call up more) league players to give them exposure and the league is getting stronger.
“What they are paid is very minimal but I can see there are young club owners willing to build and invest; the government has also stepped in to help more and more… we have an interesting group (and if in the) next four, five years if they continue like this, we can expect a surprise for sure.”
While the opposition is ranked 186th by FIFA, 20 rungs lower than Singapore, Fandi is not taking them lightly and has urged the Lions to bare their teeth.
“Mongolia is a very hard running team,” he said. “They are very disciplined, they are well organised, quite fast and they have a good wing-back coming up. They can attack and they can keep the ball very well. Now it’s up to us to see what we can do as a team… We want to win this game badly for the fans and for the team.”
Fandi went on to explain that staying disciplined was key to doing well in the upcoming games, as well as at the Suzuki Cup itself, where Singapore have been drawn in Group B alongside Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste.
“As a team, we can be stronger if we are compact, very disciplined and committed,” he said. “We have to motivate them (our players), they have to be hungry… but we are not afraid (of others).
“We have to see what we can do with this team. Importantly, we must have the belief and I can see in training everybody is fighting for a slot, they are tackling hard and showing good aggression and the level of intensity is very high…
“For us, it’s about us, not about other teams. It’s (about) how we are going to play against all the teams that are in our group. We will give our best and then I’m sure if we work hard, we can achieve something.”
Team News Zulfadhmi Suzliman is unlikely to be involved due to an ankle injury, while Faris Ramli started full training yesterday. New boy Huzaifah Aziz will earn his first Singapore cap if he plays.
Mongolia’s form The visitors have lost just once in five matches this year, that being a 2-0 defeat at home to Mauritius. They held Malaysia to a shock 2-2 draw in March, while they eased through their 2019 East Asia Football Federation (EAFF) E-1 Championship Preliminary Round 1 group with two wins and one draw, including a 9-0 thrashing of Northern Mariana Islands. Find out more about them in our Opponent Spotlight.
Past meetings This will be the first time both teams are facing off, though Singapore’s Under-18s did play their Mongolian counterparts during the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers last November, which ended in a 4-2 loss. There was also a 2-2 draw between the U-22s of both nations in the AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers in 2015, where Irfan Fandi scored both goals.
Weiss is no stranger to being in the dugout against Singapore either, having done so five times during his time in charge of the Philippine National Team.
Keep an eye out for… Adam Swandi missed out on the squad last month as he was away for trials with J2 League side Albirex Niigata FC, the parent club of his local team, but has been included by Fandi this time. The skillful attacker has enjoyed a solid debut season with the White Swans, establishing himself in the first team and tallying an overall return of five goals and eight assists in 25 matches. The 22-year-old will be keen to prove his worth and stake his claim for a Suzuki Cup spot.
Elsewhere, Ikhsan Fandi is on the hunt for a third goal in as many matches, while Fadli Kamis will earn only his second cap if he plays. Iqbal Hussain will also be hungry to show what he can offer, having had to withdraw from the previous squad due to injury.
Mongolia have not called up Ganbold Ganbayar, the 18-year-old who became the first ever player to sign a professional contract with a top-flight European side when he put pen to paper for Hungary’s Puskas Akademia in August.
But there is enough talent for the Lions to be wary of, starting with winger Baljinnyam Batbold. A livewire on the flanks, the 18-year-old has scored thrice in five games since making his debut earlier this year. With his overlapping runs and accurate crossing, left-back Norjmoogiin Tsedenbal, 30, is also worth keeping tabs on.
What else they said… The search for a number ten is still on, according to Fandi, who has tried Shahdan Sulaiman and Yasir Hanapi in that role previously. A few players are in contention for that role, he added, naming Adam, Faris, Quak, Iqbal and Shahril Ishak as candidates.
Fandi also commented on how the Lions will be heading into a major tournament without foreign-born stars for the first time in a long while, particularly with the likes of Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines having their own legion.
“We don’t think about them,” he said. “They might look down on us because they think we are very weak now, but we will surprise them. We will surprise them. That’s a promise.”
Quak acknowledged the value of being able to learn from veterans like Fahrudin Mustafic, Daniel Bennett and Qiu Li in the past, but urged the team to rise to the challenge.
“I think this year is a very crucial here for us to step up and show what a team that is made up of all locals can do,” he said. “Also, I kind of like the fact that we are going in this tournament as a underdog; I think it’s pretty good, it puts us in a very good situation to go in not expecting much.
“In this region, I think we are one of the better (known) ones for tactical discipline. So this year, I think discipline is key for us and that’s what we are actually working towards, to work in tandem with everyone to see what we can do in this tournament.”
Follow the game The match will be streamed live on fas.org.sg/live1!