National Teams – Age-group ● Feb 16, 2022
Raring to go in Cambodia
The team during their second training session on 14 February 2022
PHNOM PENH, 16 FEBRUARY 2022 – The Singapore Men’s Under-23 National Team will start their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) U23 Championship 2022 Group C campaign when they face Thailand tonight at the Prince Stadium.
After arriving in Cambodia on Saturday evening, the team came out of isolation on Monday and have undergone two training sessions so far. Head Coach Nazri Nasir’s boys are eager to get down to business and put up a strong performance against the Thais.
Midfielder Shah Shahiran said: “We are not here just to make up the numbers but to win. Everyone is excited to be a part of the team and to show where we stand compared to our peers from the region. The team has not played any international matches since the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup qualifiers and we can’t wait to take to the field on Wednesday.”
The technically-gifted midfielder is set to play a key role in the team. Still just 22, he is one of two players with continental club experience, having played in the AFC Cup and AFC Champions League qualifiers while with Tampines Rovers. He also started all three matches in last year’s AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers.
He added: “Those experiences are good for any young player but my goal now is to translate what I learnt into more dominant performances in the middle of the pitch so that I can start knocking on the door of the national team. It is going to be a challenging game, but I know that I have the composure, tenacity, and stamina to add bite in midfield and to distribute accurate balls to our attackers.
“It is important for us to remain composed, trust one another, and go out there without fear. We showed during the AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers that we can play proactive and high tempo football even against the Koreans so I believe we will do well against the Thais.”
Midfielder Shah Shahiran during a training session on 14 February 2022
Another player raring to go is Nicky Melvin Singh, who is one of six players to represent Singapore at the U23 level for the first time. The Albirex Niigata (S) striker believes his speed and agility will be a crucial asset if he is called upon.
“I am a nimble player who likes to make penetrative runs into the box,” he said. “I believe it will cause some problems for their defenders and hopefully it will lead to scoring opportunities for the team and I.
“It is a huge honour to be here in Cambodia and I want to justify my inclusion by putting up a strong showing tomorrow if I am selected to play. I also want to use this tournament to prove to Coach Nazri that he should select me for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”
Some players will be missing for the encounter, however. Raoul Suhaimi, Farhan Zulkifli and Zamani Zamri have returned positive Covid-19 results from their respective scheduled polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests since arriving. At the same time, the squad remains without Daniel Goh, Irfan Najeeb, Khairin Nadim and Zikos Chua who tested positive last week and did not travel with the squad.
Meanwhile, several players – including Jacob – are down with fever and diarrhoea, and their availability remains in the balance.
While it is unclear if the Thais are facing a similar situation, it is clear that they have a good track record in this tournament, having won the inaugural edition in 2015 and finished runners-up in the second edition four years later. The current Thai U23 team consists mostly of Under-19 players with the exception of two players as the Thai League is currently ongoing.
Head Coach Nazri Nasir said: “Regardless of the opponent, my message to the boys will be the same. To go out there to win, to give 110 per cent, and to play like Lions. I want the boys to show everyone how much they have improved and matured since the AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers.”
The last time the two sides met was in the final of the 2005 edition, which Singapore lost 3-0.
Coach Nazri added: “I want to avenge that defeat tomorrow and it will also be a good morale booster for our boys before we face another challenging side in Vietnam.”
The match will be held at Prince Stadium and kick off at 7pm local time (8pm SGT). Fans will be able to catch all of Singapore’s games live on our Facebook page.