SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30: 5 days to go

Football: Attack a priority for Tardy

A light-hearted moment as team-mates put a traffic cone on birthday boy Irfan Fandi's head after a training session yesterday. Singapore will meet Myanmar today in the SEA Games.
A light-hearted moment as team-mates put a traffic cone on birthday boy Irfan Fandi's head after a training session yesterday. Singapore will meet Myanmar today in the SEA Games.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Putting pressure on opponents is vital for today's opening game against Myanmar

Even with the underdogs tag firmly pinned on the Singapore SEA Games football team, coach Richard Tardy still wants his squad to play an attacking game.

The Under-22s will open their Group A campaign against Myanmar at the Selayang Stadium this afternoon, before meeting hosts Malaysia on Wednesday evening in the 80,000-capacity cauldron that is the Shah Alam Stadium.

Even though the Young Lions will probably have less offensive verve than either Myanmar or Malaysia, Tardy insisted: "I am too much of an optimist to talk about playing defensively. If we cannot win, we will try to draw. But I will not be pulling my whole team back to sit 30m in front of the goalkeeper."

Brunei and Laos make up the rest of Group A, with only the top two teams progressing to the semi-finals. With Tardy's men struggling for form, their semi-final target remains in question.

Still, the Frenchman will not allow his players to sit back and defend, saying: "We want to put some pressure on them. My team is very young, half of them are eligible to play in the next SEA Games (which is an U-22 tournament).

"We have to give them the exposure and experience of a big tournament and the SEA Games is the Olympics of this region. I don't want to emphasise the results, but I want emphasis on the performance."

According to Malaysian tabloid The Star, Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise has also set a semi-final target. In the 2015 Games hosted in Singapore, Myanmar reached the final but lost 3-0 to Thailand.

CLEAR FOCUS FOR THE TOURNAMENT

If we cannot win, we will try to draw. But I will not be pulling my whole team back to sit 30m in front of the goalkeeper.

RICHARD TARDY, who wants his young side to reach the SEA Games semi-finals.

The German said on Saturday: "We must first clear the preliminary hurdles before thinking about the semi-finals. I'm confident my boys will be ready for the challenge.

"Malaysia are certainly the favourites to reach the semi-finals as hosts."

Zeise will be guiding a Myanmar side that is not short of talent. Eight players in his squad had played in the 2015 Fifa Under-20 World Cup finals. Tardy had also named dynamic midfielders Yan Naing Oo and Hlaing Bo Bo and clinical striker Aung Thu as key threats.

He will also be hoping that Singapore's form picks up in time for the Games. At last month's Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship qualifiers in Yangon, Singapore lost 0-2 to Myanmar and 0-7 to Australia before beating Brunei 4-2.

Last week, they were in Perth for a two-match training tour, and lost 0-4 to Australia's U-20s and 3-5 to the Western Australia state team.

With Tardy set to take the game to Myanmar, he can count on skilful forward Ikhsan Fandi and accurate midfield passer Ammirul Emmran to do the damage. And if the Young Lions are chasing a result, they could move centre-back Irfan Fandi into the forward position to tap into his aerial power.

The coach is also taking a risk by including creative midfielder Adam Swandi in the final squad of 20, even though the player is nursing damaged ankle ligaments.

The bulk of the team play for Garena Young Lions in the S-League and they are currently rooted to the bottom of the nine-team table with no wins and just six goals scored after 13 games.

But Tardy remains positive. He said: "Two points from those first two games should be enough to send us through but we must still deliver against Brunei and Laos. If we can hold Malaysia and Myanmar, we have a very good chance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Attack a priority for Tardy'. Print Edition | Subscribe