Football: Lions don't fear Argentina, says Sundram

From left: Vice-captain Hariss Harun, national coach V. Sundramoorthy and captain Shahril Ishak commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association of Singapore.
From left: Vice-captain Hariss Harun, national coach V. Sundramoorthy and captain Shahril Ishak commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Football Association of Singapore.ST PHOTO: WANG MENG MENG

It will be David v Goliath on June 13 as S'pore take on genius Messi and his supporting cast

On paper, it is a lop-sided football contest: Fifa's second-ranked nation versus Singapore, 155 rungs below. But no fear, V. Sundramoorthy has trod on such territory before.

Come June 13, the Lions will host Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala et al, but the national coach remembers a German history lesson before the test against Argentina.

At a press conference held at the Singapore Sports Hub yesterday evening to announce his squad ahead of the friendly, as well as next Tuesday's closed-door friendly against Myanmar, and Saturday's Asian Cup qualifier against Chinese Taipei, Sundram was unyielding against talk of a drubbing by the Albiceleste.

The 51-year-old recalled a game played 34 years ago at Kallang. Then, a Singapore Selection had a helping hand from Malaysia, who sent defender Soh Chin Aun and striker Zainal Abidin Hassan to help Jita Singh's men face Bayern Munich, who had German international stars like Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Paul Breitner.

Sundram said: "It's going to be a tough game but I remember (during) my playing days, we played against Manchester United (in 1985) and Bayern Munich (in 1983). Ok, we lost to Man U (0-2) but we beat Bayern 2-1 at the National Stadium (with goals from Zainal and Au-Yeong Pak Kuan).

"It was a big crowd then and I believe that on the day, the weather will play an important part. After 45 minutes, they will probably be struggling. We will see how it goes. But definitely the boys will fight until the final whistle."

  • Glamour tie icing on the cake for FAS

  • The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) turns 125 this year, with the June 13 match against Lionel Messi and Argentina one of the events to mark the milestone.

    FAS deputy president Bernard Tan said: "125 years is no mean feat. It's a long time, and this makes us the oldest football association in the whole of Asia.

    "We are going to promote Singapore football in a more vivid way.

    "This (playing Argentina) is an excellent start for us and the FAS will focus on bringing back the Kallang Roar, making sure that we promote our games and bring back the fans to watch entertaining football in Singapore."

    The FAS is also expected to announce other events to mark the occasion in due time.

The tactician has called up 27 players for training, which will be trimmed to a squad of 23 when the Lions check into Amara Hotel tomorrow as training for the three matches intensifies.

New faces include a pair of midfielders from the Garena Young Lions - Hami Syahin Said, 18, and Muhaimin Suhaimi, 22.

Similarly, Lions vice-captain Hariss Harun is undaunted by the prospect of facing the Argentinians, saying: "The more quality opposition we play, the better it is for the national team. Yes, we might concede a few goals and we might not play so well but it's a learning experience for us."

Skipper Shahril Ishak added: "It's a dream come true for us players (to play against Argentina) and we'll try our best to compete. It's a good exposure to play against these players and we want to enjoy that moment on the field."

Sundram is determined that his players will leave the National Stadium pitch with their pride intact.

He said: "We are mentally prepared to face a big team like Argentina. I'm sure the boys will be motivated.

"We are not thinking about the scoreline, we are thinking about how to compete and coming out with our heads up."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Lions don't fear Argentina'. Print Edition | Subscribe