Nurture promising Young Lions for next SEA Games

The Young Lions, in red, may have lost the SEA Games match (above) to Malaysia last Wednesday but the players had put in a creditable performance, especially in the first half, said the writer.
The Young Lions, in red, may have lost the SEA Games match (above) to Malaysia last Wednesday but the players had put in a creditable performance, especially in the first half, said the writer.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

I feel sorry for the Young Lions competing in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur (Win vital to repair Lions' shattered confidence; Aug 18).

After suffering two consecutive losses (0-2 to Myanmar and 1-2 to Malaysia), they are staring at an early exit at the group stage for the second SEA Games in a row.

The criticism and abuse from disgruntled fans are already flooding in fast and furious on social media platforms.

However, I do not think this team is as bad as the results suggest.

I was very impressed with their first-half performance against Malaysia (Lack of fitness costly; Aug 17). They were dominant and had Malaysia on the receiving end for the major part of the first half.

It was unfortunate that they could not continue with the same disciplined and spirited performance in the second half.

It was also a joy to see the players stringing some well-coordinated passes to get into scoring positions in both their matches.

A few scoring opportunities were created in the last four minutes of the match against Myanmar (Tactics under scrutiny; Aug 15). However, we lacked a clinical finisher to convert those opportunities into goals.

But all is not lost. Rather than disband the team, let us focus on the bright side and continue working on their weaknesses.

There are several promising players on this team and most of them would still be eligible to play in the next games in 2019.

Lack of fitness is one key issue. But this can be improved, with strict regimental fitness guru Vincent Subramaniam on board.

The players should also cultivate a basic understanding of one another's style of play to enhance teamwork and strategy.

I see a bright future for these Young Lions. The experience they gain in this tournament will be invaluable as they receive further grooming to play in future major tournaments.

They could even be a feeder squad to our national team.

I have confidence in these players. Let's keep them together and work towards a better outing at the next SEA Games.

A. Thiyaga Raju

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2017, with the headline 'Nurture promising Young Lions for next SEA Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe