National Teams – Age-group ● Oct 27, 2021
Singapore seek first win of AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifiers against Philippines
Singapore U22 captain Jacob Mahler clears the ball, 25 October 2021.
SINGAPORE, 27 OCTOBER 2021 – Singapore return to action in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™ Qualifiers on Thursday night (28 October) against the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Joint-second in Group H behind Korea Republic after the opening 2-2 draw against Timor-Leste, it is imperative for the U22s to get their first win, with only the group winners and four best second-placed teams from 11 groups set to advance to the final tournament next June.
READ: Singapore U22 Men’s National Team Profiles
The Philippines, led by Scott Copper who doubles up as the senior team’s head coach, could prove to be another tough nut to crack as they also gun for their first victory.
Eleven players are from the Azkals Development Team (ADT) that competes locally in the Philippines Football League and they have also called up five overseas-based players, including David Kevin Setters, an Academy player at English League One side Portsmouth and Paolo Nicola Perez, who plays for Italian Serie C outfit Calcio Lecco.
Formerly a Germany youth international, team captain Olivier Bias also represented Bundesliga giants RB Leipizig in the UEFA Europa League back in 2018.
In their first game, the Philippines held Korea goal-less until the break before succumbing 3-0 eventually.
Expecting another fierce encounter, Singapore captain Jacob Mahler wants his side to brush aside the disappointment from Monday and refocus on their next task.
“It was not that great of a start for us, but we need to stay positive and we should not be thinking about how to mathematically calculate or qualify at this stage,” the 21-year-old told FAS.org.sg.
“I watched some of the game between the Philippines and Korea – they are a strong side who cannot be taken lightly and they will come out fighting with a good philosophy of football.
“But at the end of the day, it is 11 versus 11. We are playing for our country so we need to make sure that we play with passion and pride. No matter what the Philippines bring out on Thursday, we need to make sure we can do it ten times better than what they are doing.”
Singapore had their opportunities against the Timorese but spurned many of those and forward Glenn Kweh knows that the team cannot afford to be as profligate again. The 21-year-old, who scored the opening goal and impressed many with his neat link-up play upfront, is hoping to get the nod to feature again from Coach Nazri Nasir.
“It was a surreal moment to score on my debut for the U22s and I am so glad that my dad was sitting among the crowd to witness that moment,” said Kweh, who last represented Singapore six years ago in the AFC U16 Championship Qualifiers.
“For myself, I felt I did okay. I am not the tallest of forwards, so the team focused on playing the ball to my feet and I tried to bring the rest into play from there. At the international level, defenders are definitely more physical but I could still manage.
“But obviously, there is so much room for improvement. As a team, our attacking movement was good and we created so many chances but did not manage to put the ball into the net more often. Against Philippines, we definitely need to be more clinical – if not, it will surely cost us.”
With the team putting in extra work in training to refine their finishing for the past couple of days, Mahler cannot wait to get out there in front of a 1,000-capacity crowd again at Jalan Besar and vowed to give the home crowd something to cheer about.
“It was really an amazing feeling to be back playing international football on home soil and to sing the national anthem in front of all the fans,” recalled Mahler, who has been capped thrice at senior level.
“They were fantastic and they never stopped cheering for us throughout the game. As a team, we are so grateful for their support and we have to make sure we put up a better performance against Philippines to repay them. They deserve that.
“It is about the final passes and touches in front of goal, and we have been trying hard to improve on that aspect and we got to make sure we have the desire to finish off every chance that we create.
“Collectively, we have to do better. Personally as well, I know I can be better – I made that mistake that led to Timor-Leste’s second goal and you just cannot make that type of error in a professional game. I let the team down at that moment and the only thing I can do is pick myself up and do better as the captain of this team.”
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