Football: Hariss Harun admits the Lions will be underdogs at the AFF Suzuki Cup

Showing off the new Nike team kit yesterday are (from left) forward Sahil Suhaimi, midfielder Hariss Harun and winger Faris Ramli. They tackle co-hosts the Philippines in their opening AFF Cup match.
Showing off the new Nike team kit yesterday are (from left) forward Sahil Suhaimi, midfielder Hariss Harun and winger Faris Ramli. They tackle co-hosts the Philippines in their opening AFF Cup match.PHOTO: NIKE

Hariss admits team struggling ahead of AFF C'ship but is confident experience will count

Winless in six games since caretaker coach V. Sundramoorthy's first game in charge in June and goal-less in their last three, the Lions are limping into the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup.

And with a week to go before the Singapore team kick off the biennial regional tournament with a daunting opening match against co-hosts the Philippines in Manila, vice-captain Hariss Harun has admitted that he and his team-mates are long shots for a record fifth crown.

Under Sundram, they beat Myanmar 1-0, but lost to Vietnam (0-3), Cambodia (1-2), Bahrain (1-3), Hong Kong (0-2) and Syria (0-2). They were held by Malaysia (0-0) at the National Stadium last month.

At the team's launch of their new Nike kit yesterday, midfielder Hariss, 25, said: "I won't lie, the results haven't been positive. At the end of the day, football is results-based. We are always trying to do our best to achieve the results but it hasn't happened for us.

"We are going into this tournament as underdogs. (That) shouldn't put too much pressure on us.

  • Sundram trims squad to 24

  • Lions coach V. Sundramoorthy trimmed his squad of 28 to 24 after yesterday evening's training session at Geylang Field.

    The 24 will travel to the Philippines for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup and 23 players will be registered to play in the tournament before the opening match against the co-hosts next Friday.

    "This is quite a good mix of youth and experience," said Sundram. "We have veterans like Dan (Daniel Bennett) and Farra (Fahrudin Mustafic) and youngsters like Faris (Ramli) and Hafiz (Sujad). Our main asset is our work rate."

    GOALKEEPERS

    Hassan Sunny, Izwan Mahbud, Syazwan Buhari

    DEFENDERS

    Baihakki Khaizan, Daniel Bennett, Juma'at Jantan, Madhu Mohana, Afiq Yunos, Faritz Hameed, Hafiz Sujad, Shakir Hamzah, Fahrudin Mustafic

    MIDFIELDERS

    K. Anumanthan, Hariss Harun, Shahril Ishak, Faris Ramli, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Yasir Hanapi, Gabriel Quak, Shahdan Sulaiman

    FORWARDS

    Sahil Suhaimi, Khairul Amri, Shahfiq Ghani

"While we haven't got any results on the board (so far), what matters is the tournament and we have to turn up. That's when it matters.

"We have to be prepared and not just lie down and wait for the tournament. We have got to work hard, got to make sure we make things happen and try."

Hariss helped sportswear manufacturer Nike launch the new kit at the Jalan Besar Stadium alongside forward Sahil Suhaimi and winger Faris Ramli.

The jersey is made of lightweight polyester that adheres to the contours of torsos for an aerodynamic fit, with side panels that aid ventilation. Each shirt is made from 16 recycled plastic bottles. The jerseys are available at $115 from Weston Corporation and Sportslink shops.

Singapore have been drawn in Group A alongside the Philippines, defending champions Thailand and an unpredictable Indonesia side in the AFF Championship.

The Lions lost to Thailand 0-2 in a friendly last year but have not played the Philippines or Indonesia in four years. They last met the two teams in the 2012 tournament, which saw them lose 0-1 to Indonesia in the group stage but eke out a 1-0 aggregate win over the Philippines in the semi-finals before going on to win the tournament.

Hariss added: "Everybody's talking about the Group of Death. Looking at past results and present results, people will think we are underdogs in this group.

"But I think it bodes well for us as nobody will write Singapore off. The Thais, the Philippines and Indonesia will not say they are going to walk all over us. We cannot - and will not - let that happen.

"I'm very sure of that because we have experienced players. We just have to bring that (experience) to the AFF Cup."

With the team struggling for form and given a tall ask, the new-look jersey at least gave the players something to smile about.

Hariss said: "It's very exciting every time we get a new jersey. For us players, it's the same feeling that we had when we were kids.

"The excitement has got us fired up and we're ready to go for the AFF Cup."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline ''Lions are underdogs''. Print Edition | Subscribe