SINGAPORE - National Under-23 captain Jacob Mahler said home ground advantage will be key if his team is to progress to next year's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup tournament.
Singapore are hosting Group H at the Jalan Besar Stadium and start their campaign against Timor-Leste next Monday, before facing the Philippines three days later and ending against favourites South Korea on Oct 31.
Mahler was part of the final 23-player squad announced on Thursday (Oct 21). He is joined by the likes of the Singapore Premier League Young Player of the Year Nur Adam Abdullah, as well as forwards Glenn Kweh, Khairin Nadim and Zikos Chua, who will lead the attack in the absence of Ilhan and Ikhsan Fandi.
Mahler stressed the importance of starting the competition well. He said: "I know our fans will be at the stadium to support us and that will only spur us even more on the field.
"The boys have worked hard every day, adapting to the playing philosophies and we will go out there to do our best and fight for the country. I personally can't wait to lead the team out."
Ticket sales have begun and up to 1,000 spectators per match are allowed with safe management measures in place.
There are 11 groups from both the West and East Zone, with the group winners and four best second-placed teams set to advance to the tournament be held in Uzbekistan next June.
The Young Lions have been undergoing centralised training since early October.
Head coach Nazri Nasir cut five players from the initial provisional squad. He said: "We looked for certain things when deciding on the final squad, in terms of the positions needed as well as the players' ability, understanding of the game and awareness of our philosophy, which is very important.
"We also need some physicality because this is the international stage; it has been a while since these boys have competed there and it is a good opportunity for the players to give their best.
"We have been working on our tactical aspects for most of the past week and now for the upcoming five days, we will focus more on the game-plans for the first game."
Assistant coach Philippe Aw added: "We are thankful that we are able to participate in this tournament because for two years, our international opportunities have been impacted by Covid-19.
"It is not going to be easy because we have lacked international exposure but still, it is very important that we go out there and display positive football."
Goalkeepers: Dylan Pereira Singh, Martyn Mun, Ridhwan Fikri (Young Lions)
Defenders: Danish Irfan, Jacob Mahler, Jordan Emaviwe, Raoul Suhaimi, Ryhan Stewart (Young Lions), Nur Adam Abdullah (Lion City Sailors), Ryaan Sanizal (Tampines Rovers)
Midfielders: Arshad Shamim, Daniel Goh, Harhys Stewart, Jared Gallagher, Joel Chew, Rezza Rezky, Shah Shahiran, Zamani Zamri (Young Lions), Farhan Zulkifli (Hougang United), Saifullah Akbar ( Sailors)
Forwards: Glenn Kweh, Khairin Nadim, Zikos Chua (Young Lions)