FAS ● Oct 18, 2023

Singapore seals progress to second round in World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027 qualifiers


Shawal Anuar and Guam’s Dane Jacob Augustin on the ball, October 2023. 


DEDEDO, GUAM, 17 OCTOBER 2023 – The scorching heat at the GFA National Training Centre played host to a thrilling encounter as Singapore squared off against Guam in the second leg match of Round 1 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 Qualifiers. In front of a passionate crowd of 1,012 fans, the two teams battled it out for a spot in the next round.


Singapore’s head coach, Takayuki Nishigaya, stuck to a winning formula, fielding the same starting eleven that triumphed in the previous encounter, with the only change in the attacking department, as Ilhan Fandi replaced Shawal Anuar.


The match kicked off amidst the sweltering conditions, at 2:45 pm local time, and it didn’t take long for the action to heat up on the pitch.


Song Ui-young and Guam’s Isiah Kazunori Kimura Lagutang in action, October 2023.


In the 9th minute, Song Uiyoung had a golden opportunity to put the visitors ahead, but his scuffed shot, following a flick-on by Ilhan Fandi, found its way into the grateful arms of Guam’s goalkeeper, Dallas Jaye.


Less than 10 minutes later, Song threatened once again, breaking away on the left to deliver a cross into the box. Ilhan leaped the highest, but his header sailed just over the bar.


The heat seemed to manifest itself in the players’ actions as well, with both Lionel Tan and Guam defender Kyle Halehale earning yellow cards in quick succession for challenging the opposition keeper and a foul on Ilhan respectively.


The first of two scheduled cooling breaks in the 28th minute came as a much-needed respite for the players, as the relentless pace of the game began to take its toll. Guam, seeking to disrupt Singapore’s rhythm, resorted to an aggressive physical style of play.


Guam threatened in the 39th minute when Lionel was upended while going up for a header with Edward Na but the referee deemed it to be fair play, allowing the Guam forward to run straight onto goal. However, Jacob Mahler came to the rescue with a vital save.


Zulqarnaen Suzliman with the ball, October 2023. 


Moments before halftime, in the 44th minute, Marcus Lopez found himself with a chance to put Guam ahead, but Singaporean shot-stopper, Hassan Sunny, was once again up to the task.


The second half saw a tactical change, with Shawal Anuar replacing Hami Syahin and Hafiz Nor coming on for Chris Van Huizen in the left side of defence.


Singapore started brightly in the 47th minute, as a long ball from Zulqarnaen found Song in the penalty box, but the forward’s shot was off target. Man-of-the-match Song continued to be a menace, dancing his way into the penalty box just two minutes later but his fierce shot narrowly missed the target.


In the 53rd minute, Singapore probed further as Hariss Harun’s sweeping ball was chested down cleverly by Ilhan and picked up by Shawal, but his shot went just past the post. Hariss’s header off a corner in the 57th minute sparked panic in the Guam defence, but they managed to clear the ball off the line.


Shawal Anuar scored his 10th international goal for the country, October 2023. 


As the game entered its later stages, the pressure on the Guam goal by the Lions further intensified. In the 82nd minute, a delightful through ball by Shah Shahiran set up Iqbal Hussain who had come on in place of Ilhan. The Geylang International forward made his mark on the game by providing an assist as he unselfishly passed the ball to Shawal at the far post. This time, the number 20 didn’t miss, as he secured his 10th international goal on his 31st cap for Singapore.


Guam, however, didn’t give up easily and sought to strike back in the 85th minute as Zulqarnaen was forced to make a heroic goal-line clearance to keep Singapore’s lead intact.


Six minutes of added time were announced, and in the 93rd minute, Lionel’s long clearance was controlled well by Shawal, who raced towards goal. A last-ditch foul by substitute Dane Augustin earned him a straight red card for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity.


Ilhan Fandi with the ball, October 2023.


The final whistle confirmed Singapore’s progress to the second round of the Asian Qualifiers, where they will face the likes of Asian powerhouse Republic of Korea, China, and Thailand in Group C.


After the match, Coach Nishigaya expressed his satisfaction with his team’s performance: “It was crucial that we got through the first round of the qualifiers. We had a number of challenges to overcome, including the long travel, intense weather conditions, and the pitch. I am happy with the way my players stepped up and overcame those challenges both physically and mentally.”


He, however, reminded the squad not to be complacent heading into Round 2: “It does not mean that the players who have been called up for these two games against Guam will automatically earn a spot in the team for Round 2; they will still need to prove that they are good enough to retain their place.”


Singapore: Hassan Sunny (GK), M. Anumanthan, Lionel Tan, Jacob Mahler, Zulqarnaen Suzliman (Amirul Adli 90+3’), Christopher Van Huizen ((Hafiz Nor 45’), Hariss Harun (C), Song Uiyoung (Shahdan Sulaiman 74’), Hami Syahin (Shawal Anuar 45’), Shah Shahiran, Ilhan Fandi (Iqbal Hussain 61’)
Unused subs: Syazwan Buhari (GK), Zharfan Rohaizad (GK), Glenn Kweh, Farhan Zulkifli, , Daniel Goh, Zulfahmi Arifin, Adam Swandi




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