National Team - Lions ● Sep 20, 2022
Lions set to take on Vietnam in friendly
Adam Swandi in training, 19 September 2022
HO CHI MINH CITY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2022 – The Singapore Men’s National Team will face Vietnam in the opening match of the Hung Thinh International Football Tournament 2022 tomorrow evening.
Takayuki Nishigaya’s charges will take on the hosts at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, which is expected to be near its full 15,000 capacity for the friendly match.
The Lions last faced the Golden Star Warriors in 2016 in the AYA Bank Cup, which ended 0-0 at full-time before the Viets ran out 3-0 winners in extra time in Yangon, Myanmar.
A lot has since changed for Park Hang Seo’s men. Appointed in September 2017, the 64-year-old South Korean oversaw a historic qualification for the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup – their first since as Vietnam (they were co-hosts in 2007). Despite being the youngest nation, Vietnam reached the quarter-finals and have since qualified for a second successive Asian Cup, to be held next year. Vietnam also won their second ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship crown in 2018, while Park also led the Under-22s to triumph at the the last two Southeast Asian Games.
Takayuki Nishigaya (centre) at the pre-match press conference ahead of Vietnam-Singapore, 20 September 2022
But the Lions, who touched down here on Monday morning, will not be cowed. Nishigaya, in his second international window since taking charge in May, has brought 23 players for this assignment, which will be followed by an outing against India on Saturday. The Japanese tactician, 49, is fully aware of Vietnam’s ability but has urged the team – which includes three uncapped players and nine others with fewer than five caps – to seize their opportunities to impress ahead of the year-end AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022.
“Our boys are fresh and we are looking forward to playing a good team like Vietnam,” he said at a press conference today morning. “Vietnam’s players are very aggressive, still young but have good ability.”
Nishigaya further noted that the Lions can “only improve by playing better teams” like Vietnam, who are the only Southeast Asian side ranked by FIFA in the world’s top 100 at 97th – 42 rungs above Singapore. Park has called up 31 players for the tournament, including star attacker Nguyen Quang Hai. The 25-year-old became the first Viet player in a French league when he signed for second-tier Pau FC earlier this year and has appeared in seven of their nine matches.
Nguyen Cong Phuong, 27, is a skilful attacking midfielder and familiar face to Nishigaya, who was head coach at J2 League side Mito Hollyhock in 2016 during the player’s loan spell there. “He was very young then and it was a tough situation of him, but he was always positive in his thinking and he improved a lot quickly,” Nishigaya recalled. “I am really happy to see his improvement and look forward to seeing him again tomorrow.”
A limbering session for the Lions, 20 September 2022
The Lions will also do well to keep an eye on Nguyen Tien Linh, a 24-year-old rising striker with 12 goals in 30 caps. Highly-rated attacker Khuat Van Khang is one of six uncapped players who will be eager to make their mark as the home side look for a second straight win on the same ground, having beaten Afghanistan 2-0 in a June friendly.
For the Lions, Joshua Pereira and Syed Firdaus Hassan will eye potential senior international debuts, while Ho Wai Loon and Sahil Suhaimi could make their first appearances since October 2018 and November 2019 respectively.
Midfielder Hafiz Nor, 34, echoed Nishigaya’s sentiments and said: “It will not be easy and furthermore, we are playing away (but) during yesterday’s training, I can see that the boys gave their all and are in good spirits… we are aiming to put on a good show.”
Kick-off will be at 8pm and fans will be able to catch the match LIVE at youtube.com/c/nextsports.