National Team - Lions ● Nov 21, 2018

Preview: Lions going for big win against Timor-Leste, says Fandi


The Lions take on Timor-Leste in their third ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2018 Group B match tonight, 21 November at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. Kick-off is at 7.30pm, Singapore time.


Background The mission for Singapore tonight is simple: score as many times as possible against their opponents in order to keep their Suzuki Cup hopes alive.


With three points from their first two games, the Lions know that victory is a must against Timor-Leste before they head off to play leaders Thailand in their final match. The Philippines already have six points from two matches and face Thailand next, before clashing with Indonesia (three points from three games) in their last game.


With the possibility of a semi-final spot being decided by goal difference, Fandi Ahmad knows his charges need to rack up the goals at the National Stadium.


“We (have) got to win big,” he said simply at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday evening. “If we were to win 1-0 or 2-0, it doesn’t help us… Timor-Leste are no pushovers, they are a good team but in our hearts we want to score at least four goals.


“We still have to hope that Indonesia will beat them (Philippines)… but whatever happens, we need to win and win big, and then we see what happens in Thailand.”


The last time Singapore scored at least four times was in a 4-0 away win over Cambodia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and that will be easier said than done against the Timorese, who have shown plenty of pluck despite being the lowest-ranked side in the tournament. A 7-0 pasting by Thailand was followed by 3-1 and 3-2 losses to Indonesia and the Azkals, with the latter results showcasing their ability to hurt opponents.


Fandi acknowledged that the Lions would have benefitted from the break since they last played in Bacolod on the 13th – Timor-Leste played three days ago – but is still wary of the threat that they pose.


“Definitely, they will be coming at us,” he asserted. “They never give up because they are fighters… we must be very, very disciplined when we start the game. Most importantly, we need to attack and defend as a team… I think we lost a bit of tactical discipline in the last 15 to 20 minutes in Bacolod.


“This team are very, very aggressive, they are very mobile and there is no fear in them… They are quite dangerous when going forward… we must be aware of their counter-attack as they have many, many fast players.”


But the 56-year-old rejected the idea that his team are feeling the heat ahead of the game, noting that the players “enjoy” the training sessions to date.


“Very importantly, we don’t think too much about the game,” Fandi said. “We want to see them smiling… We want them to really go and give their best and express themselves.“I believe we are focused, we are relaxed, we are not tense; there is no pressure from anyone for the team, even (from) the officials but we know what we have to do.”


A feared attacker in his heyday, Fandi knows what it takes to bulge the net and he urged the Lions to stay composed when the opportunities come knocking.


“We must be comfortable, even (if) the goal is not coming we’ve got to be patient in finding the right penetrative pass, penetrative run,” he said. “When the chance comes your way, you’ve got to finish because football is about scoring.”


O Sol Nascente head coach Norio Tsukitate is aware of the “difficult” task facing them but feels that his team will put up a good display.


“We think our team has improved (throughout the tournament), we believe in each other and we must do our best for our last game,” the Japanese said.


Team News Shahril Ishak was forced off the pitch against the Philippines with a dislocated shoulder is ruled out of the tournament. Khairul Amri looks set to start upfront alongside Ikhsan Fandi as Fandi opts for two strikers.


“In the game, the movement and understanding must be there because they are strikers; they need to help each other,” he said. “I think Amri will guide Ikhsan… so hopefully, they will combine and do some magic for us.”

Timor Leste’ form The visitors have won once in six matches this year, a 3-1 home win over Brunei in the first leg of their qualifying round for this tournament. They lost the return leg 1-0 and then followed that with a 2-2 away draw to Cambodia, before losing all three of their matches in this Suzuki Cup. Their last away win came in March 2015 in a 1-0 success over Mongolia in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers; their only other away win was a 5-1 victory away to Cambodia in October 2012, which was their first ever international win. Read more about them here.


Past meetings This will be the first meeting between both nations at senior level. They have played each other at youth level once, with Timor Leste’s Under-21s running out 2-1 winners over the Singapore U21s at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy earlier this May.


Keep an eye out for… Gabriel Quak put in a lively showing again in Bacolod, building on an impressive display against Indonesia – where he created Hariss Harun’s winner – and will be a key figure in the Lions attack here. Clearly, Amri will also be one to watch as he adds a different dimension to the team’s attack and the veteran will be hoping to score in a record sixth Suzuki Cup for Singapore, as well as equal Noh Alam Shah’s record of scoring in four consecutive editions.


Rufino Gama scored a cracking long-range effort against Indonesia and along with fellow attacker Henrique Cruz and midfielder João Pedro, were all singled out by Fandi as players to keep close tabs on.


What else they said… Midfielder Izzdin Shafiq said the Lions have also been working on long-range attempts, noting: “We had to take shots from outside the box because if we don’t practice that, we won’t apply it during the game.”


Good service to the strikers is key, added Fandi: “Delivery must be good because we have two strikers now and two fast wingers; this (Timor-Leste) team, when they attack, the advantage (for us) is in (their) transition where they sometimes go up in numbers and they forget to defend.”


Follow the game oktoSports will broadcast the game LIVE, which will also be shown online at Toggle. The official Suzuki Cup Facebook page and YouTube channel will also live-stream the match.