Young Lions coach Aide warns against complacency in football opener

(From left) National Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar with players Iqbal Hussain and Irfan Fandi examining the draw conducted on April 15, 2015 for the June SEA Games. Aide has issued a warning to his charges, reminding them not to underestimate the
(From left) National Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar with players Iqbal Hussain and Irfan Fandi examining the draw conducted on April 15, 2015 for the June SEA Games. Aide has issued a warning to his charges, reminding them not to underestimate their opponents and telling them they could not afford to take things slow.  -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Vesak Day will be game day for Singapore's SEA Games football squad, assembled 18 months ago with the mission of delivering goals and gold over the next fortnight.

Bidding to end a 56-year gold drought, the Young Lions open their Group A campaign against the Philippines at a sold-out Jalan Besar Stadium on Monday evening. Although their opponents are fielding an under-strength side comprising mainly of university talent, Singapore coach Aide Iskandar issued a warning to his Under-23 squad.

"I reminded the players of what happened in our opening match two years ago (when Singapore drew 1-1 with minnows Laos)," the 40-year-old, who led the team to bronze in 2013, told The Straits Times on Sunday.

"We cannot afford to take things slow. The coaches have done their best to prepare the team so now the stage is set for them to deliver."

The Singapore line-up is highlighted by the LionsXII's Malaysian FA Cup heroes Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli, as well as 17-year-old striker Irfan Fandi, the eldest son of Lions great Fandi Ahmad.

The top two teams in Group A, which also features Myanmar, Indonesia and Cambodia, will qualify for the semi-finals. Group B is expected to be topped by defending champions Thailand, who thumped Laos 6-0 in their opening match on Friday.