Izwan adopts same approach in re-match

The key performer in Singapore's 0-0 draw with Japan in June, Izwan Mahbud is the subject of discussions between the FAS and the J-League.
The key performer in Singapore's 0-0 draw with Japan in June, Izwan Mahbud is the subject of discussions between the FAS and the J-League.PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
The key performer in Singapore's 0-0 draw with Japan in June, Izwan Mahbud is the subject of discussions between the FAS and the J-League.
The key performer in Singapore's 0-0 draw with Japan in June, Izwan Mahbud is the subject of discussions between the FAS and the J-League.PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Goalie who thwarted Japan in World Cup qualifier admits having nerves again but won't change routine

Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud might have given Japan's strikers plenty of sleepless nights after his 18-save display in Saitama.

But, ahead of the re-match on Thursday, the custodian with the cherubic smile is finding it hard to snooze - just as he did in the nights leading up to the first fixture.

That June evening, his heroics kept the much-vaunted Japan attack - featuring Leicester City striker Shinji Okazaki, AC Milan's Keisuke Honda, and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa - at bay as the Lions held on for a 0-0 draw.

Yesterday, the 25-year-old told The Straits Times: "I still can't sleep well. Of course there will be nerves before the game, over meeting Kagawa, Okazaki and Honda."

But he insisted that he has not changed the way he prepares for the game, saying: "It's normal, and I'd prepare myself the same way I've done. I try not to make any major changes.

NO EXTERNAL STRESS FACTORS

I don't feel the pressure from outside. It's more (internal), because as a player, you go into every game wanting to win and to give the best for your country and club.

IZWAN MAHBUD, on the pressure of performing in big matches

"It worked the last time, so hopefully this time it will too."

The LionsXII player also played down the extra attention he has received since shutting out Japan.

"Life has been the same for me. There's no extra attention," he said, even as he fends off interview requests from media and autograph hunters both home and abroad.

There has also been recognition on the pitch, with talk of a move to Japan. In June, J-League club Matsumoto Yamaga's vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato even said he would like to watch Izwan training.

ST understands the Football Association of Singapore is in talks with the J-League about sending Izwan and national team-mate Safuwan Baharudin to Japan for trials.

Officials from the Japan Football Association and J-League will be at the National Stadium on Thursday.

But Izwan is focusing on his craft, and on how to hold off the inevitable Samurai Blue onslaught. He said: "I don't feel the pressure from outside. It's more (internal), because as a player, you go into every game wanting to win and to give the best for your country and club."

Japan need a win to cement top spot in Group E and progress to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. They are second with 10 points, two behind leaders Syria having played one game less.

Singapore, who also have 10 points, are third with an inferior goal difference.

Vahid Halilhodzic's men, booed by 57,533 home fans after the 0-0 draw, want revenge.

In an interview with The Japan Times last week, Halilhodzic said: "It is still difficult to accept that result against Singapore (in June)... We will be focused for that game. It is up to us to get revenge."

But Izwan is optimistic. "We are preparing well, morale is good, and we are just trying not to put too much pressure on ourselves."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Izwan adopts same approach in re-match'. Print Edition | Subscribe