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TheBigStory
 

Don't write the Lions off, we can meet goal of reaching Suzuki Cup final

Published on Nov 20, 2012 1:52 PM
 
Singapore striker Aleksandar Duric says don't write the Lions off. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

It is another four days before the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup kicks off and, already, some observers are writing us off.

Singapore's target of reaching the final is unrealistic, they say.

Based on our recent friendly defeats, maybe they are right. But results of warm-up games should always be taken with a pinch of salt. These matches are primarily for coaches to try out different tactics and find the best player for each position.

While it is always nice to win games - like we did last night against Pakistan - the level of competitiveness is almost always lower going into a friendly.

But now, with our final warm-up match out of the way, all our focus is on Sunday's group stage opener against Malaysia.

Against the group hosts and defending champions, we could not have wished for a tougher way to start the tournament.

And it is not just 11 opponents that we have to deal with; in the stands will be 100,000 Malaysian supporters at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, all baying for our blood.

The opening game will definitely be our toughest of the group stage but that does not make our other two matches - against Indonesia and Laos - any less crucial.

I have always believed that to win your group is even more difficult than winning the final, because every goal, every game and every minute count.

We learnt that the hard way at the last tournament in 2010 but, this time around, there is cause for optimism. For one, we have been able to stay relatively injury-free, which is good news after missing key players in the last two editions of the Suzuki Cup.

Going into a tournament like this, it is always important to have a full-strength squad as it provides the sort of healthy competition which keeps the first-team players on their toes.

But, more importantly, the team have matured since our group stage exit two years ago.

Boys such as Safuwan Baharudin, Hariss Harun and Izwan Mahbud are all ready to step up. And there is a core of experienced players, such as Fahrudin Mustafic, Qiu Li, Shi Jiayi and Daniel Bennett, who can help guide them along when the going gets tough.

With a good mix of youth and experience, we are ready to go out and show from the very first minute that we are still a football powerhouse in Asean - that we can meet our goal of reaching the final.

As a team, we must always set a target for ourselves at every tournament we enter. But even that is of no use - unless we believe that we can achieve it.

stsports@sph.com.sg

Background story

With a good mix of youth and experience, we are ready to go out and show from the very first minute that we are still a football powerhouse in Asean.