Football: Lions to host Malaysia and Philippines in March triangular series

The Lions will play the Philippines and Malaysia in a triangular football series at the National Stadium from March 21-29, 2022. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Football rivalries will be renewed when the Lions play the Philippines and Malaysia in a triangular football series at the National Stadium in March as part of preparations for the third round qualifiers of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup.

In response to queries, a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman told The Straits Times that each side will play each other once in the series from March 21-29.

Spectators are likely to be allowed, although it is unclear if there will be changes to guidelines that were in place for the Suzuki Cup last December. Then, 10,000 fans were allowed for each matchday, which featured up to two games.

"All three matches (in March) are scheduled to be played at the National Stadium and further details, including fixtures, ticketing matters, and safe management protocols, will be announced in due course," said the FAS spokesman.

He declined to state the dates for the three games, and it is understood this is because the travel details of the visiting teams have not been confirmed.

However, sources say the game against Malaysia will take place on March 26 and this was also the date in a Football Association of Malaysia media statement announcing their appointment of new national coach Kim Pan-gon last week.

The game between the two sides will be the first Causeway Derby clash since March 2019, when Singapore beat Malaysia 1-0 in the Airmarine Cup friendly tournament at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.

The last time the two sides met in the Republic was in October 2016, when they played out a goalless draw in an international friendly at the National Stadium.

The Philippines are more familiar foes to the Lions, given the two sides had met at the Suzuki Cup, when Singapore won 2-1.

A Singapore Sports Hub spokesperson said: "We are pleased to be hosting the international football friendlies at the National Stadium and are working closely with FAS and the government to deliver a safe event for the players, officials and spectators."

Singapore are still without a national coach after Tatsuma Yoshida's contract was mutually terminated on Dec 31. FAS had targeted an appointment before the games in March.

The FAS declined to give an update on its ongoing search for Yoshida's successor, although ST understands that the national body has settled on a final shortlist and could make an appointment within the month.

On Thursday, the world No. 161 Lions were handed a favourable draw for the third round qualifiers of the Asian Cup, which will be held in China next year.

Singapore are in Group F alongside Kyrgyzstan (96th), Tajikistan (115th) and Myanmar (152nd), avoiding heavyweights Uzbekistan (85th), Bahrain (89th) and Jordan (90th).

The qualifiers, played in a single round-robin format, will be held between June 8-14 in centralised venues due to the pandemic, with Group F games to be played in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. It was previously contested in a home-and-away format.

The six group winners and five best second-placed teams will join 13 already-qualified sides for the main tournament.

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