SINGAPORE - The Singapore Under-22 football team were eliminated from the SEA Games competition even before a ball was kicked at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Tuesday (Dec 3), as defending champions Thailand beat Laos 2-0 before the Young Lions fell 1-0 to Vietnam later.
With just one game left, Singapore are fifth in their six-team group, with one point from four matches. Vietnam are top of Group B with 12 points, followed by Indonesia and Thailand on nine points, and Laos with four points. Only the top two teams will advance to the semi-finals.
While it was yet another defeat for the Young Lions at this Games, coach Fandi Ahmad declared himself pleased with the performance.
The 57-year-old said: “We are happy with our performance, but not the result. We are obviously disappointed with the result because this was our best game, against the best team. We fought hard... the desire to win was there. Tactically, we were solid and the boys gave everything. We had chances in the first half, and Vietnam had none.
“In the second half, they came back strong, and we made just one mistake to give away the corner which led to the deciding goal.
“We’ve got to work harder for the next campaign, which some of them will still be eligible for. And I hope the players also work hard to make it to the senior national team.”
As a standalone game, the Young Lions’ performance against a strong Vietnam side who have qualified for next month’s Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship by swatting aside Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei, was an encouraging one.
After all, the Vietnam U-22s, who are hunting for the country’s first SEA Games football gold in 60 years, have been in fine form this year, their lone defeat coming against the United Arab Emirates.
Fandi made three changes to the team who were defeated by Thailand and they can take heart from a resolute performance, in which they played aggressively and made life difficult for the Vietnamese, who had zero shots in the first half.
Haiqal Pashia and Ikhsan Fandi were lively up front, and won a few set-pieces in dangerous areas. But again, the deliveries let them down, with only Irfan Fandi’s 30-metre free kick testing the goalkeeper.
Their defence also largely frustrated Vietnam, to the point that Nguyen Tien Linh aimed a sneaky punch to the back of Jacob Mahler in an 83rd-minute incident that was missed by the officials.
However, Vietnam punished Singapore’s inability to score when Ha made the breakthrough from a corner two minutes later.
Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand are all in the running for the two semi-final slots. With Indonesia taking on minnows Laos tomorrow, the Thais must beat Vietnam on the same day to progress.
Singapore will conclude their campaign against Brunei hoping to pick up a consolation win and end their four-game goal drought – their longest at a single Games.