Football: Attack is the new watchword

National head coach of youth Fandi Ahmad enjoying training at Jalan Besar with (from left) Ho Wai Loon, Irfan Fandi and Izzdin Shafiq. The Lions are bottom of their Asian Cup qualifying group and badly need a win.
National head coach of youth Fandi Ahmad enjoying training at Jalan Besar with (from left) Ho Wai Loon, Irfan Fandi and Izzdin Shafiq. The Lions are bottom of their Asian Cup qualifying group and badly need a win.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Lions have their backs to the wall after poor start and need goals from 3-4-3 formation

Accustomed to parking the bus against opponents, national football coach V. Sundram Moorthy wants to show off his new ride today - a steamroller.

Known for his cautious tactics geared to grinding out results, the 51-year-old will deploy an attacking 3-4-3 system to take the game to Turkmenistan in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.

His hand has been forced as the Lions sit bottom of the four-team Group E on one point after two matches and need a win to have a chance of a top-two finish that will help them qualify for the 2019 Finals in the United Arab Emirates.

The new attacking approach was unveiled last Thursday in a 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in a friendly.

"It was a game that we should have won but sometimes football is like that - you play well but you don't get the result," Sundram lamented.

Since his appointment in May last year, he has fielded shapes of 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1 and a highly unusual and ultra-defensive 6-3-1 formation during last November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup games against the Philippines and Thailand.

In 16 matches in charge since his appointment, the Lions have won just twice, scoring eight goals and never more than one per game. But the new attacking approach will try to remedy that.

WE CAN DO IT

I tried to see the players' strengths, if they can play this system. We have tall centre-backs like Daniel (Bennett), Irfan (Fandi) and Madhu (Mohana).''

V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, Singapore national football coach, who believes his team can re-ignite their Asian Cup hopes by beating Turkmenistan.

He believes he has the right personnel to pull off a win against the visiting Central Asian team.

Sundram explained: "I tried to see the players' strengths, if they can play this system. We have tall centre-backs like Daniel (Bennett), Irfan (Fandi) and Madhu (Mohana).

"On the flanks, Nazrul (Nazari) and Faritz (Hameed) are capable of playing wing-back. We have good holding midfielders like Hariss (Harun) and Izzdin (Shafiq). That will create room for Faris (Ramli) and Safuwan (Baharudin) to attack. It is a more balanced system (between defence and attack)."

Vice-captain Hariss added: "We like to engage and attack as much as we can. We had a good preparation and we want to put into use the things we had trained for. But as always, there's still room for improvement.

"We want to win and get the points on board."

Against Hong Kong, there were attempts to construct attacks from defence through centre-back Zulfahmi Arifin, whose natural position is in midfield but is noted for his accurate distribution. And 1.86m centre-back Irfan can be pushed up front to attack aerial balls.

The Turkmens, ranked 141st in the world by Fifa, are favourites on paper against the Lions, who are 171st.

The teams have met only once, in the 2009 Ho Chi Minh City Invitational Tournament, with Singapore winning 4-2. Turkmenistan, nicknamed the Emeralds for their national colour which is green, lost 1-2 to Qatar in a friendly in Doha on Aug 23 in preparation for the game against Singapore.

Turkmenistan head coach Yazguly Hojageldiyev is not taking anything for granted and is wary of the Lions. He said: "Only two matches have been played. Each team can still qualify.

"I have seen Singapore's tactics, they are very strong defensively. It will be a difficult match but we are ready for tomorrow."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Attack is new watchword'. Print Edition | Subscribe