National Team - Lions ● Mar 25, 2022
Lions look forward to renewing rivalry with Malaysia in Causeway Derby
Nazri Nasir at a Singapore training session, 23 March 2022
SINGAPORE, 25 MARCH 2022 – Singapore Men’s National Team head coach Nazri Nasir has complete faith in his side ahead of tomorrow’s Causeway Derby clash with Malaysia in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Tri-Nations Series 2022.
The Lions will take on their fiercest rivals in what is believed to be the 77th edition of the derby at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub in their first international outing since the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup 2020 last December and Nazri is eager to get things underway.
“Of course, every time we play against Malaysia, there is a rivalry and this is normal,” he said at the pre-match press conference earlier today afternoon. “When I was a player before, playing against Malaysia is something that is always special… it is the same now as a coach. I think we understand how Malaysia play; they are excited under a new coach and they did well in the last game against the Philippines. So I expect it to be a very difficult game.”
Ranked 154th in the world by FIFA, Harimau Malaya sit seven rungs above Singapore and got off to a winning start in the Kim Pan-gon era on Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over the Philippines in the opening match of the Series. Nazri noted that tomorrow’s opponents cannot be underestimated, in particular the speed of their attacks, but stated that the Lions have worked on a game plan to “overcome” the threats.
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Nazri, who memorably scored an injury-time winner in a 2-1 away friendly victory in July 2002, also tasted success in this fixture on his debut as interim head coach in March 2019 when Faris Ramli scored the only goal in Bukit Jalil in their AIRMARINE CUP opener. Now, back in the hotseat on an interim basis for this Series, the 51-year-old has picked 24 players as the Lions go in search of a first home win against Malaysia since a 5-3 thriller in World Cup qualifying in July 2011 and two straight wins against them for the first time since June 2005.
“I already know the players from the last tournament (in 2019) and also because I was assisting Tatsuma (Yoshida, former Singapore head coach),” Nazri said. “When I called up these players, it was based on their performances and I know their ability and of course, I believe in these players – that is why they are here. The absence of Anumanthan and Iqram Rifqi (due to a family emergency and Covid-19 respectively) has affected our plans a bit, but it is also a very good opportunity for the rest of the players.”
Reiterating his confidence in his team, the former Singapore captain asserted: “When any players are given a chance to play, I am sure they will give their best and as a coach, I believe in them and that they will give their best. It is a Causeway Derby; I have nothing else to say and the players know what they need to do.”
One of the Lions who will be looking to grab his opportunity is Tampines Rovers attacker Taufik Suparno (above), who has been called up for only the second time; his first time was more than six years ago, in November 2015. With three goals and one assist in three AIA Singapore Premier League matches this season, the 26-year-old will be targeting an international debut during this period.
“I have learned a lot (since my first call-up) and I am glad that (for) this second call-up, my hard work and sacrifices have been recognised,” he said. “The atmosphere now is not much different (from 2015); players like Hariss (Harun) and Safuwan (Baharudin) were also there (then and) they welcomed me back, and also told me that this is the first step, but the second step is to contribute more and help the team to win games.”
With up to 15,000 spectators allowed, both Nazri and Taufik have called on the Singapore fans to generate an incredible atmosphere and roar the Lions on. Tickets can still be purchased at fas.org.sg/tickets.
“It goes without saying that the fans are always important in any game that we are playing,” Nazri said. “I am sure the fans are excited and it is very important to see the fans at the stadium tomorrow.” Taufik added: “The more fans there are, the more they will boost us. I was there (in the crowd) when I was watching the AFF (Suzuki Cup) and you know, I had goosebumps – and I hope this will be the same.”