National Team - Lions ● Mar 20, 2024

Singapore vs China – Fresh starts for both teams under new Head Coaches


From left to right: Lions captain Hariss Harun, Lions Head Coach Tsutomu Ogura, China PR Head Coach Branko Ivankovic, and China PR captain Zhang Linpeng at the pre-match press conference, 20 March 2024


SINGAPORE, 20 MARCH 2024 – In a highly anticipated match that marks the commencement of a new era for both the Chinese and Singaporean national football teams, the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Round 2 qualifier on 21 March 2024 promises to be a riveting encounter. The Singapore National Stadium is set to host this crucial match, with a kick-off scheduled for 8.30pm (Singapore time), with the Lions taking on Team China in a bid to get their first points of the campaign.


This match will hold significant importance as it will be the first for Tsutomu Ogura and Branko Ivankovic, the newly appointed head coaches of Singapore and China PR respectively. Both coaches were entrusted with their roles in February 2024, and will be looking to start their tenures on a high note. The expectations are high, and the stage is set for a tactical showdown.


Singapore, under the guidance of Tsutomu Ogura, aims to showcase a rejuvenated side comprising a mix of experience and new faces, as they look to build on their cohesion as a team and sharpen their tactical nuance. Ogura, known for his analytical approach to the game, has been working with his squad of 26 over the last week on a gameplan to counter the strengths of the Chinese team. The Singapore squad will be bolstered by the support of a sizeable local crowd, as they look to leverage their home advantage at the Singapore National Stadium.


China PR, led by Branko Ivankovic, comes with its own set of ambitions. Ivankovic, with a rich coaching resume and a reputation for transforming teams into organised units, is anticipated to bring a fresh perspective to the Chinese team. His strategic acumen and experience on the international stage will be key factors in China’s quest for dominance in this qualifier.


China PR Head Coach Branko Ivankovic, and China PR captain Zhang Linpeng at the pre-match press conference, 20 March 2024


While both coaches will be keeping their cards close to their chest in terms of potential team line-ups, fans can expect a mix of experienced internationals and emerging talents from both sides. The focus will also be on how each coach utilizes their key players, setting up their teams to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses while fortifying their own defenses. For the stats-inclined, this fixture will be the 19th meeting between the two sides. China have notched 11 wins while Singapore has triumphed twice and the remaining five games ending in a stalemate.


For Singapore, the emphasis might be on maintaining a solid defensive structure while looking for opportunities to counter-attack. The humid conditions in Singapore could also play a role, with fitness levels being a critical factor as the match progresses.


China, with a blend of players plying their trade in domestic and overseas leagues, will likely look to impose their mark early on despite being the away side, aiming to control the pace of the game and apply pressure early on. The technical skill set of the Chinese players, combined with Ivankovic’s tactical knowledge, could see them focusing on possession and quick transitions.


Aside from being a crucial qualifier for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™, this match symbolizes a fresh start for both teams. Success in this fixture could set the tone for the remainder of the qualification campaign, making it more than just a game; it’s a statement of intent from both nations. China PR currently sit third in Group C with three points while Singapore will be looking to pick up their first points of the campaign after consecutive losses in the first two games.


Coach Tsutomu Ogura at the pre-match press conference, 20 March 2024. 


Ogura was clear on what he expected out of his players in this match: “The most important thing is for us to play our (brand) of football. Winning is obviously a good result but for me, being able to play the type of football that we want, the concept that we have been training for, that is also a positive thing, and the result will come.”


Captain Hariss Harun shared the squad’s sentiments as they regrouped for international duty once more but this time under a new head coach: “For the players, with a new coach on board now, we are eager to show him what we can do. He (Ogura) wants us to play in a different style so the players have to demonstrate to him that we can adapt to his system within this short period of time.”


Hariss Harun at the pre-match press conference, 20 March 2024


With the return leg scheduled for 26 March 2024 in Tianjin, China, both teams will be eager to secure a positive result in Singapore to carry momentum into the second meeting. The strategic decisions made by the two head coaches in this first encounter will undoubtedly influence the preparations and approaches for the subsequent match.


The stage is set for Ogura and Ivankovic to unveil their visions for Singapore and China PR respectively, in what is expected to be a captivating chapter in the footballing history of both nations.




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