Determined Lions ready for Oman test

Lions coach Nazri Nasir has reiterated his faith in his charges - especially 34-year-old veteran Khairul Amri (far left, in training with Gabriel Quak). Amri laid on the pass for the 82nd-minute winner from Faris Ramli in their 1-0 win over Malaysia.
Lions coach Nazri Nasir has reiterated his faith in his charges - especially 34-year-old veteran Khairul Amri (left, in training with Gabriel Quak). Amri laid on the pass for the 82nd-minute winner from Faris Ramli in their 1-0 win over Malaysia.ST FILE PHOTO

Coach Nazri wants balance between defence and attack against higher-ranked opponents

Even if the odds are against them - the teams are separated by 75 places in the world rankings - Singapore will continue their attacking football against Oman in the final of the AirMarine Cup tonight.

The world No. 90 Omanis hammered Afghanistan 5-0 on Wednesday, while 165th-ranked Singapore pulled off a 1-0 win over hosts Malaysia in the four-team invitational tournament.

The Republic's victory at Bukit Jalil Stadium was achieved through hard work, a dedication to pass the ball out from the back and players expressing themselves up front.

Caretaker national coach Nazri Nasir wants more of the same in tonight's clash.

Oman reached the round of 16 in January's Asian Cup finals.

Nazri, 48, told The Straits Times yesterday: "We can expect a very tough game, especially since Oman had beaten Afghanistan by a good score.

DEFENSIVE DISCIPLINE

Malaysia penetrated our flanks a few times and I will make sure that won't happen again. We need fresh legs on the flanks who can track back as Oman have fullbacks who are very fast. Whoever gets to play will have to stay very focused.

NAZRI NASIR, caretaker national coach (above), on tonight's final against Oman.

"They will be confident and their morale is boosted. But nevertheless, anything can happen."

The former national captain will stick to the 4-3-3 formation deployed against Malaysia, but he wants the Lions to be more compact defensively to keep the pacy Omanis at bay.

Nazri explained: "I have studied Oman's attacking patterns. Malaysia penetrated our flanks a few times and I will make sure that won't happen again.

"We need fresh legs on the flanks who can track back as Oman have fullbacks who are very fast. Whoever gets to play will have to stay very focused."

Nazrul Nazari and Irwan Shah started in the fullback positions but Emmeric Ong and Faritz Hameed are in consideration for starting places.

And Nazri has reiterated his faith in his men - especially 34-year-old veteran Khairul Amri, who laid on the pass for Faris Ramli's 82nd-minute winner against Malaysia.

Nazri said: "Amri pushed till the last minute. I believe in him and he delivered.

"He is still a very dangerous player who is very intelligent and he waited till the right moment to create that goal."

But the Lions can expect no favours from Oman, who are led by Erwin Koeman, the older brother of Netherlands national coach Ronald. The 57-year-old Dutchman, who was capped 31 times, told the Malaysian media: "In football, there can be no excuses, you have to win. We are here to win the cup, as simple as that.

"The expectations will be higher, but that's normal everywhere. It's good, as it will push the staff and players to do a little better.

"It's the mentality, what's inside you, what you can bring, and everybody can always bring a little bit more."

But Nazri believes that the Lions have bought into his ideas, saying: "They (the players) believe in my style. We are not going to sit back (against Oman).

"We will attack them, but we cannot leave gaps behind. When we don't have the ball, everyone is a defender.

"Honestly, I'm very happy with the team, there is nothing more I can ask from them, they gave 100 per cent (against Malaysia). Determination is our weapon."

AIRMARINE CUP

3rd Place: Malaysia v Afghanistan (4.25pm), Final: S'pore v Oman (8.40pm) - Singtel TV Ch111

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Determined Lions ready for Oman test'. Print Edition | Subscribe