Football: Lions seek net gains at home

National football coach V. Sundram Moorthy and vice-captain Hariss Harun at a press conference with Chinese Taipei interim coach Kazuo Kuroda and defender Chen Yi-wei. Singapore will be missing top scorer Khairul Amri who had an appendix operation.
National football coach V. Sundram Moorthy and vice-captain Hariss Harun at a press conference with Chinese Taipei interim coach Kazuo Kuroda and defender Chen Yi-wei. Singapore will be missing top scorer Khairul Amri who had an appendix operation.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Sundram admits Chinese Taipei will be no pushover ahead of their Asian Cup qualifier

Although goal-shy and with their chief striker ruled out, the Singapore national football team will have to put all doubt aside and rediscover tonight a skill lost from their armoury - putting the ball into the back of the net.
 

The Lions, ranked 157th in the world by Fifa, will meet Chinese Taipei, ranked three rungs lower, in an Asian Cup qualifier tonight, knowing that a win could potentially put them top of Group E and in strong contention for a top-two finish.

That would enable them to qualify for the 2019 24-team finals in the United Arab Emirates - a feat the Lions had never achieved in the previous 16-team format except in 1984, when they qualified automatically as hosts.

Ahead of the match at Jalan Besar Stadium, national coach V. Sundram Moorthy said that while his men must attack, they also need to mind their back door.

So instead of going for an all-out attack, the 51-year-old is opting for a more balanced approach.

He said yesterday at the pre-match press conference at the Amara Hotel: "Chinese Taipei is not going to be an easy game. We have been watching them, and they are a good team, very organised. We must be careful, if we open up too much, we will get punished.

"But we are at our home ground and with the support of the players and the players turning up, we have every chance of winning."

STAYING COMPACT

Chinese Taipei is not going to be an easy game. They are a good team, very organised. We must be careful, if we open up too much, we will get punished.

'' V. SUNDRAM MOORTHY, national football coach, wants the Lions to keep it tight.

But the tip of Sundram's spear has been dented as forward Khairul Amri, the team's current leading scorer with 32 international goals, was ruled out after undergoing an appendix operation on Wednesday.

In addition, the team have scored just six times in 13 'A' international games during Sundram's one-year tenure.

An option the tactician is considering is to push midfielder Safuwan Baharudin higher up into scoring positions.

The 25-year-old, who has netted six times in 68 internationals, is known for his aerial power and shooting from distance.

While the Lions ponder their attacking options, Chinese Taipei's caretaker coach Kazuo Kuroda is plotting an upset.

He spoke in Japanese through a translator: "Our ability is not good and Singapore is the bigger team.

"But what is most important is we want to take the lead."

The two teams have played each other five times previously, with the Lions winning twice and drawing twice.

In their last meeting, a 2011 friendly at Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore won 3-2.

The other two teams in Group E are Tajikistan and Bahrain.

Singapore started their campaign with a 0-0 draw against the 133rd-ranked Bahrainis in March, while world No. 137 Tajikistan won 3-1 in Taipei.

Vice-captain Hariss Harun believes the Lions' team spirit will carry them through, saying: "The boys are feeling very positive, especially after the first result (0-0 against Bahrain).

"We go into this game with confidence and it's very important to get the points on the board.

"Every body knows their job and they know they have to turn up (against Chinese Taipei).

"Hopefully, the fans can come in numbers as it will be a good boost for the boys."

SINGAPORE V CHINESE TAIPEI

Singtel TV Ch109 & StarHub Ch297, 8.55pm, Jalan Besar Stadium

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Lions seek net gains at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe