Outclassed and out of Asiad?

Young Lions lose to Myanmar U-23 side in last chance to impress SNOC for Games nod

Myanmar defender Nyein Chan Aung (No. 17) making his presence felt at Bishan stadium yesterday. Myanmar, with an average age of 18, beat the Young Lions 2-0 in a friendly.
Myanmar defender Nyein Chan Aung (No. 17) making his presence felt at Bishan stadium yesterday. Myanmar, with an average age of 18, beat the Young Lions 2-0 in a friendly.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

National Under-23 coach Fandi Ahmad used 11 of his substitutes in last night's 2-0 loss to Myanmar's U-23 side to give his players as much international exposure as possible. It was also, however, a lesson in the gulf in standards as the hosts were largely outclassed by the visitors at the Bishan Stadium.

Myanmar forward Win Naing Tun opened the scoring in the 40th minute with a fine piece of skill as he turned two defenders inside the box before smashing a shot into the top corner. He then orchestrated the second goal, starting the move which led to midfielder Ye Yint Aung's header at the far post in the 62nd minute.

The crowd of about 1,000, including Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) president Tan Chuan-Jin, all opting to skip the Portugal-Morocco World Cup match shown at the same time, watched as a battling Singapore side were limited to long-range efforts.

Myanmar coach Myo Hlaing Win, whose team's average age was 18, praised Singapore's positive attitude. "Singapore gave us a tough game, they have a lot of power and speed and we have problems with their high balls," he said. "But we are lucky and we are disciplined. We made the difference in the transition when we were effective in our counter-attacks."

Singapore also had a youthful selection, with 10 out of the squad of 22 aged 21 and below. The match took on extra significance as it was a final chance to impress SNOC and earn the nod to compete at this year's Asian Games in Indonesia.

Football was left out when the SNOC announced last month a 246-strong Team Singapore contingent for the Aug 18-Sept 2 Games. The Football Association of Singapore has appealed the decision.

Singapore has to submit its entries (by name) to the Indonesian organisers by June 30.

The Republic finished third in their group behind Palestine and Tajikistan at the 2014 Asiad in South Korea and did not advance to the knockout rounds.

For the moment, Fandi is satisfied with the fight his players showed. He said: "The result is obviously disappointing but the commitment was good. I'm very happy with the performance of some players like (defender) Hafiz Sulaiman and (attacking midfielder) Zulfadhmi Suzliman.

"Whatever the decision (to allow Singapore to play at the Asian Games), it's out of our control. Mr Tan told the boys after the game that he is happy with the performance and it's a good sign that we are committed."

He has pencilled in a July 27 friendly with Macau's U-23 side and Australian club Perth Glory and New Zealand side Wellington Phoenix will be invited for a triangular in August. The goal is to qualify for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship.

"I used 11 subs (against Myanmar) because even if a player has only 10-20 minutes, I want him to have a chance to play," said Fandi, also the Lions caretaker coach for November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup. "I want to make them feel part of the team and hopefully, I can expose some of them to the senior national team, too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2018, with the headline 'Outclassed and out of Asiad?'. Subscribe