AffSuzukiCup2020 ● Dec 17, 2021

Lions look forward to final group match against Thailand in AFF Suzuki Cup 2020


Irfan Fandi, 14 December 2021


SINGAPORE, 17 DECEMBER 2021 – Singapore have already qualified for the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) 2020 semi-finals after winning their opening three games, but the job is not done just yet.


READ: Lions qualify for AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 semis


The Lions face leaders Thailand in their final Group A game in the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub on Saturday night and victory is needed in order to finish top of the group.


Forty two places above Singapore at 118th in the FIFA rankings, the record-five time champions will be the biggest test for Tatsuma Yoshida’s charges at this tournament so far.


The War Elephants have a wide array of stars in their roster, from 2014 and 2016 Most Valuable Player Chanathip Songkrasin and Leicester City youngster Thanawat Suengchitthawon to tournament all-time top scorer Teerasil Dangda.


Since losing 3-1 in the first leg of the 2012 final, Alexandré Pölking’s side have won the subsequent five encounters – including the most recent clash in the 2018 edition where they triumphed 3-0 in Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium.


Irfan Fandi, 14 December 2021


It may seem like a tall order but Singapore defender Irfan Fandi is adamant that the team has what it takes to rewrite history and get one over the Thais.


“Of course, Thailand have brought one of the strongest sides that they could bring but I still think they have weaknesses which we have to try and exploit,” the 24-year-old told “They still have the upper hand, but we are not going to fear them.


“I feel that we have a strong team this year and are more equipped to face them (than in 2018) so if we go into the game with the right tactical plan, we definitely can get a result. No doubt, we are going out there to try and win this game.”


Zulqarnaen Suzliman, 14 December 2021


Marauding right-back Zulqarnaen Suzliman, one of the stars for Singapore at the tournament so far, sang a similar tune.


“It is a big task but we are viewing this as an opportunity to see where we stand,” the 23-year-old told “For sure, we want to be challengers (for the trophy) and we do not want other teams to take us lightly.


“While we have already qualified, we are not going to slack off. We have to focus on what we do as a team and we are going out there to play our strongest football. We want to remain unbeaten and finish top of this group.”


Singapore lineup, 14 December 2021


For Irfan, this encounter means he will face the country where he has plied his trade in since 2019. The BG Pathum United star is one of two Singaporean players, along with Sukhothai FC’s Zulfahmi Arifin, who play their football in Thailand.


The strapping centre-back has enjoyed real success for the Rabbits, winning the 2019 Thai League 2 and 2020-21 Thai League 1 titles with the club, and believes this match could provide a platform for other Singaporean players to follow suit.


READ: Safuwan hits century mark for Singapore


“It is a great chance for Singaporeans who want to play abroad to show that we are as good as the Thais, if not even better,” he said. “I am sure that there are clubs who will take notice if any of our players play well.


“Since I moved there in 2019, I have learned to be more composed on the ball in the back-line and picked up a lot of small things by playing alongside better players. That has helped my game a lot.”


Singapore players applaud the crowd after beating Timor-Leste, 14 December 2021


Five of Irfan’s BG Pathum teammates are in the Thai squad, including current tournament joint top-scorer Teerasil with four goals, and the banter had begun even before a ball was kicked.


“When the draw came out, we were already joking in the (BG Pathum) changing room saying stuff like ‘we will beat you’,” he recalled. “Just a few days ago, I spoke to my goalkeeper (Chatchai Budprom) on the phone and I was just teasing him that I would do a celebration in front of him if I scored.


“It is all just jokes and friendly banter really, but I can assure you that it will be all serious on the pitch when we come up against each other. I know for myself how clinical Teerasil is, so we have to watch him very carefully and not give him too much space and time on the ball as well.”


Zulqarnaen Suzliman, 14 December 2021


For Zulqarnaen, he could well come up against Thailand’s impressive left-back Theerathon Bunmathan – the first ASEAN player to win the J.League with Yokohama F. Marinos.


“Coach has selected the best 28 players in Singapore and everyone wants to fight for their spot,” he said. “It is great to have Nazrul (Nazari) as my competition and we constantly push each other in training.


“For myself, I always give my all whenever Coach picks me – my job is to run up and down the flank for the team. Hopefully I get to start again and I am really looking forward to play against a quality player like Theerathon.”



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by FAS (@fasingapore)


Irfan is one of four outfield players alongside Shakir Hamzah, Safuwan Baharudin and captain Hariss Harun to have completed all three matches so far and he is ready to play a starring role again for the Lions.


“Of course, it has been tiring but we are all professionals and it is about how we take care of ourselves,” he said. “We have been doing a lot of recovery work so I am definitely feeling good to go again.”


Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!