Football: No Messi but Sundram may still park bus v Argentina

National football coach V. Sundram Moorthy and Singapore head coach of youth Fandi Ahmad lead the Lions in training ahead of tonight's marquee friendly with Argentina.
National football coach V. Sundram Moorthy and Singapore head coach of youth Fandi Ahmad lead the Lions in training ahead of tonight's marquee friendly with Argentina.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

His team had just suffered a shock defeat in their quest to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup, and would dearly welcome a morale-boosting win against any opponent.

However, Singapore national coach V. Sundram Moorthy insisted that he would much prefer to face two-time world champions Argentina with their five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi playing in their friendly tonight at the National Stadium.

"I think we would love to have Messi here, because he can fill the stadium," the 51-year-old tactician said.

"I also would love to see him play, but it's unfortunate he's not playing."

Messi had arrived with the Argentina national team on Saturday, a day after they beat South American rivals Brazil 1-0 in Australia.

However, the 29-year-old left hours later on a plane to Barcelona. The forward, as well as striker Gonzalo Higuain and defender Nicolas Otamendi, were allowed to leave the team and will not feature against Singapore.

Nevertheless, the Lions will still be facing a formidable Argentina side that can still boast the likes of Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel di Maria and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala in their ranks.

Sundram's side will have an uphill task to keep the score respectable, especially after they squandered an early lead to slump to a costly 2-1 defeat by Chinese Taipei at the Jalan Besar Stadium in their Asian Cup qualifier on Saturday.

However, he believes that the Lions are raring to face their more illustrious opponents, and give a good account of themselves.

He said: "I think that they are spirited, and I think that they are ready.

"We are playing against a strong team, and we would approach the game tactically."

That could mean employing a defensive Lions line-up against Argentina's strong attack, much like how a six-man defence was used against an offensive Thailand at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.

"Obviously we want to go out there to entertain, but we must be cautious because they (Argentina) are a world-class team," said Sundram.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2017, with the headline 'No Messi but Sundram may still park bus v Argentina'. Print Edition | Subscribe