National Team - Lions ● Sep 06, 2018
Preview: Singapore raring to go against Mauritius
SINGAPORE, 6 SEPTEMBER 2018 – It’s Fandi Ahmad’s first game as Lions Head Coach and Mauritius are the opponents. The African side will be hosted at Bishan Stadium tomorrow night, 7 September, with kick-off at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at fas.org.sg/tickets!
Background All eyes will be on Singapore legend Fandi when he leads his troops out at Bishan this Friday, four months after he was appointed as Head Coach for the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.
The 56-year-old took charge of his first official training session on Monday, having called up 26 players for the upcoming friendlies against Mauritius tomorrow evening and against Fiji on 11 September next Tuesday.
The Lions last played in March under then-coach V. Sundram Moorthy, where they beat the Maldives 3-2 and lost 1-0 to Chinese Taipei. This came after a torrid 2017, where the team failed to win any of their 11 games.
There is an air of cautious optimism under Fandi’s reign and he has been pleased with what he has seen in training over the past few days.
“We are all very excited (ahead of these games) and in training, they look very eager,” he said at the pre-match press conference today afternoon at the Oasia Hotel. “You can see the determination and motivation.”
A handful of young players like Zulfahmi Suzliman, Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Jacob Mahler have been included, with Fandi keen to test out new selections before he finalises a 26-man squad to travel to Osaka, Japan in October for a final training camp before the Suzuki Cup.
Fandi also noted that with two more friendlies against Mongolia and Cambodia on 12 and 16 October respectively, it gives those who have not been called up this time another opportunity to impress.
“For the likes of Fadli Kamis, Huzaifah Aziz, Adam Swandi, Madhu Mohana and Emmeric Ong, we will see the opportunities for them (to join us in October),” he said. “We’ve already talked to the experienced players (in the team) that this is what we want to do (bring in newer players into the fold).”
Fandi also acknowledged that Singapore have fallen behind their Southeast Asian rivals in recent years and the “only way” to win back the fans is to play “good football”.
“Now we have to pick up, with a new set of players coming in and the youngsters pushing the experienced ones,” he declared.
“We need to improve… Win, lose or draw, I will be responsible but most importantly, we must play good football; if we do, the results will come. The players are very happy in training…I believe we can have a good run in these friendlies and the Suzuki Cup.”
Mauritius are a bit of an unknown quantity with both teams meeting for the first time, though Head Coach Francisco Filho also asserted his desire to “play good football”.
The African nation are ranked 155th in the world by FIFA, 14 spots above Singapore and have a few half-French players in their team. You can read more about them in our Opponent Spotlight here.
Team News Faris Ramli was pulled out of the squad earlier today due to injury, with the PKNS FC attacker replaced by Warriors FC striker Khairul Nizam.
While the 27-year-old has missed most of the league season due to injury, Fandi explained that they wanted Nizam to be part of the team in order to help him with his injury troubles.
“When he is fit, he is one of our key players,” he said. “He has the potential and talent to help us… we want to help him with his injuries and do a lot of strengthening.”
A couple of Singapore players are carrying minor knocks but there are no other changes to the set-up.
Mauritius have brought 18 players to Singapore, with 11 who were initially called up unable to make it here due to various reasons.
Mauritius’ form The visitors have lost their last two games 1-0 to Angola and 6-0 to Botswana, which saw them crash out of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup in May. They did not have a fantastic 2017 either, winning once and drawing five times in their 13 games.
Filho’s men did start 2018 with three straight wins and three clean sheets in a row against Macau, Mongolia and Malawai, before losing to Angola and Botswana.
Past meetings This appears to be the first time ever that both teams are playing each other at senior international level. At youth level, Fandi was in charge of the Singapore Under-20 side that lost 2-1 away to Mauritius’ U-21 team in March last year.
Keep an eye out for… the five potential debutants in the Singapore squad, namely Ho Wai Loon, Hami Syahin, Zulfadhmi, Zulqarnaen and Mahler. Of the five, the latter trio have been called up for the very first time.
If Gabriel Quak gets onto the pitch, it will be his first appearance in a Lions jersey since November 2016; for Iqbal Hussain, it will be his first since October 2016. Caps-wise, Shahril Ishak will win his 135th for Singapore if he plays, leaving him seven short of matching record-holder Daniel Bennett.
Shahril, along with Ikhsan Fandi and Khairul Amri, have been in good attacking form in the league this season and will hope to replicate that at international level.
For Mauritius, defender Lindsay Rose is someone to keep an eye on – the 26-year-old turns out for Ligue 2 side FC Lorient. At 16, defender Jean Francois an interesting addition to the Dodos’ squad.
Follow the game The match will be streamed live on fas.org.sg/live1!