SINGAPORE - The national women's team will not be competing at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Asian Cup next year after falling to a 1-0 defeat by Indonesia at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Monday (Sept 27).
The loss was the Lionesses' second in four days to their South-east Asian rivals, after they were beaten 1-0 in the first tournament qualifier last Friday.
With Iraq and North Korea withdrawing from the qualifiers owing to Covid-19 concerns, Indonesia's two wins saw them finish above Singapore in Group C to book their spot in the AFC Women's Asian Cup in India for the first time since 1989.
In Monday's game, world No. 96 Indonesia dominated proceedings in the first half, taking the lead in the 31st minute as Octavianti Dwi Nurmalita's effort from a corner found the net through a cluttered penalty area.
Singapore, who are ranked 130th in the world, put in an improved performance in the second half, with their closest chance coming in the 65th minute when Nur Farhanah Ruhaizat's header went just above the crossbar.
Needing at least a 2-0 win to top the group and earn a spot at the Asian Cup, the Lionesses, who were competing in their first tournament since the 2019 Asean Football Federation Women's Championship in Thailand, were unable to get a breakthrough.
Ahead of the qualifiers, the Singaporeans had targeted a berth at the Asian Cup for the first time since 2003, fielding a new-look squad including six uncapped players as overseas-based players like defender Siti Rosnani Azman - who recently joined Japanese club INAC Kobe Leonessa - Australia-based defenders Priscilla Tan and Suriya Priya, and United States-based striker Putri Nur Syaliza were unavailable owing to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
While they will miss out this time, head coach Stephen Ng said: "We came into this game knowing that we had to chase the one goal and we came in with a good fight and fight we did as a nation.
"Unfortunately we couldn't make it this time but we'll come back stronger."
He acknowledged that there was a difference in playing standards between the two sides, but commended his players for their efforts in Dushanbe.
Ng said: "We managed to match Indonesia in the competitiveness and desire, which shows how much the women’s team wants to play.
"Since our preparations, they have shown to be incredibly committed in training and they were willing to learn and better themselves."
The next goal for the team is to feature in next year's SEA Games, which will be held in Hanoi.
"We want to accelerate growth in the local scene and this is a stage that can greatly help the team," said Ng.
"The effort of the players in these qualifiers have been fantastic and it is time to recognise and continue investing them."