National Team - Lions ● Jun 10, 2022
Lions prepare to play Tajikistan in second Asian Cup Qualifier
Singapore training, 7 June 2022
BISHKEK, 10 JUNE 2022 – The Singapore Men’s National Team continue their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup™ 2023 Qualifiers Final Round campaign tomorrow evening when they face Tajikistan in their second Group F match.
The 114th-ranked Tajiks present another tough challenge for the 158th-ranked Lions, who suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to hosts Kyrgyz Republic on Wednesday in their opener despite taking the lead.
Head Coach Takayuki Nishigaya is well aware that his charges will likely have to take victory at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium to keep their hopes of qualifying alive, with the six group winners and five best runners-up going through to Asia’s showpiece tournament next year.
“It is a very important game for us,” he told the media on Thursday evening. “We still have a chance to qualify and I told them (the team) immediately after the match (against Kyrgyz Republic) that we have two more games, so we just have to focus on those two games.”
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With only two full days to prepare for the match, Nishigaya stressed that player recovery is key and the focus in this intervening time has been to “get back” to as best a condition as possible in order to face a Tajikistan side aiming to make it to the Asian Cup for the first time ever.
Petar Segrt’s men got off to a perfect start with a 4-0 thumping of Myanmar on Wednesday. The Croat, appointed in January this year, can count on the likes of all-time top scorer Manuchekhr Dzhalilov, who netted from the spot against Myanmar and 21-year-old attacker Shervoni Mabatshoev, scorer of a brace in that match – his maiden goals for the country since making his debut at 17 in 2018. In midfield, Ekhson Pandzhshanbe pulls the strings. There have been only two previous meetings between Singapore and Tajikistan, which came in November 2007 during FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Then, the Lions won 2-0 at home and drew 1-1 away.
“They have many good, quality players, especially their attackers so we just have to try to manage them,” Nishigaya said. “But if we are able to continue this way (and build on the previous performance against Kyrgyz Republic), we will be able to get the three points.”
Midfielder Yasir Hanapi was ruled out of the matchday squad on Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19 and is currently being monitored. If the 32-year-old does not return a negative result tomorrow, there is the option to replace him with another player who was not registered in the 23-man list, with Saifullah Akbar and Adam Swandi the two available outfield options.
Captain Hariss Harun called on the Lions to put the first match behind them and approach tomorrow’s clash with a fresh and focused mindset.
“All is not lost and as a team we have to understand that we have to make things count,” he told FAS.org.sg. “For us, we know that one game is down and there are still two games, we still have every chance to qualify. We have to give our full focus and concentration… We have enough players in the team to rally everyone together. If we can better what we did yesterday, we will definitely be able to get the results in us. I think we can and we just need to push ourselves a bit more.”
The match kicks off at 6.30pm, Singapore time and will be streamed LIVE on the FAS’ YouTube channel.
⌛️ Gearing up for tonight – the latest Unrestricted ⬇️
Kick-off vs 🇹🇯 at 6.30pm SGT – LIVE on our YouTube: https://t.co/xab4GEdTjO
— FAS (@FASingapore) June 11, 2022