Football: Loss in 2014 to Malaysia was a wake-up call and Singapore now better prepared, says captain Hariss Harun

Singapore national team coach V. Sundramoorthy (left) and captain Hariss Harun (second from left) shaking hands with their Malaysian counterparts Ong Kim Swee (right) and Amri Yahyah during the Causeway Challenge press conference.
Singapore national team coach V. Sundramoorthy (left) and captain Hariss Harun (second from left) shaking hands with their Malaysian counterparts Ong Kim Swee (right) and Amri Yahyah during the Causeway Challenge press conference.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - The shock group stage exit at the 2014 Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup at the National Stadium in front of their home fans was a low-point for Singapore football but national captain Hariss Harun believes it was also a blessing in disguise.

The host, who were defending champions, conceded two late goals to fierce rivals Malaysia and lost 3-1 and were eliminated from the competition. The Tigers eventually lost to Thailand in the final.

The Republic's national team has had to wait two years for another chance to face Malaysia and will take on their neighbours this Friday (Oct 7) in the Causeway Challenge, an international friendly.

It will also serve as preparation for both teams for the Nov 19-Dec 17 Suzuki Cup.

Speaking at Thursday's press conference at Amara Hotel, Hariss said: "It's not very nice to lose at home, we don't like it and we don't want to lose at home. But I feel the last game against Malaysia was a learning experience for us. We had control of the game at 1-1 and were going to qualify with 10 minutes to go but after that we just collapsed.

"We were a bit naive, a bit inexperienced to handle the match in the closing stages. It was disappointing but maybe also a good thing for the team to learn something.

"I feel we are better prepared now with a couple of senior heads in the team and we hope to handle the match better tomorrow and hope for a positive result."

National caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy has recalled veteran defender Daniel Bennett and midfielder Mustafic Fahrudin, 38 and 35 respectively, to the national fold and believes this added experience will be vital as the Lions seek a record fifth Suzuki Cup trophy.

Sundram said: "We wanted some experience and they are experienced players who have won the AFF Cup before and this will add to the young players and they can guide them."

The former Singapore international was then serenaded by a "Happy Birthday" song and presented with a birthday cake after the press briefing. He turns 51 today.

A win against Malaysia on Friday would be the perfect birthday present.