Show me the heart of a Lion: Yoshida

The Singapore team in Jordan over the weekend preparing for their World Cup 2022 Asian second-round qualifier against Saudi Arabia today. Singapore are top of Group D on four points. PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE
The Singapore team in Jordan over the weekend preparing for their World Cup 2022 Asian second-round qualifier against Saudi Arabia today. Singapore are top of Group D on four points. PHOTO: FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION OF SINGAPORE

Singapore coach wants players to be fearless against fancied Saudis in World Cup qualifier

Courage is everything in sport. For Singapore's footballers, this means playing with the heart of a lion despite the seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against them in today's 2022 World Cup qualifier in Saudi Arabia.

The Lions have never beaten the Saudis in 10 meetings, scoring just once in their last six losses.

When Hariss Harun leads his team out at King Abdullah Stadium in Buraidah, they will face a side ranked 87 places higher at world No. 70 - and still smarting from their 2-2 Group D opener in Yemen.

None of this matters, Singapore coach Tatsuma Yoshida told The Straits Times.

"What can we do to get a good result? We must not be afraid," said the 45-year-old Japanese.

"Saudi Arabia know they must win the match to get back on track, and it is easy to only defend in the match, but this is not my style.

"We will do our best and try to attack. We know this will be very difficult but we want to challenge them and we also want to win."

  • LAST SIX MEETINGS

  • JUNE 2008, WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

    Singapore 0 Saudi 2

  • FEBRUARY 2008, WORLD CUP QUALIFIER

    Saudi 2 Singapore 0

  • JUNE 2007, FRIENDLY

    Singapore 1 Saudi 2

  • JULY 2001, FRIENDLY

    Singapore 0 Saudi 3

  • APRIL 1993, FRIENDLY

    Singapore 0 Saudi 3

  • SEPTEMBER 1986, FRIENDLY

    Singapore 0 Saudi 4

BOLD LIONS

We will do our best and try to attack. We know this will be very difficult but we want to challenge them and we also want to win.

TATSUMA YOSHIDA, Singapore coach, on their World Cup qualifier in Saudi Arabia tonight.

The Lions have been bold in their approach since Yoshida took charge in May.

They are the lowest-ranked side in their group in the Asian second-round qualifiers but are top after a 2-2 draw against world No. 137 Yemen and a 2-1 win over No. 101 Palestine 2-1 last month.

In a friendly last Saturday, they stopped their 98th-ranked hosts Jordan from registering a single shot on target in a goal-less draw.

The Saudis, who have qualified for five World Cups, including last year in Russia, will be the Lions' toughest test yet.

Describing their opponents as "one of the strongest teams in Asia", Yoshida added: "They are on the same level as Iran, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and Qatar.

"They are good technically and tactically, they have good build-up and good rotation."

He has studied five of their recent matches and noted his counterpart Herve Renard, an African Cup of Nations winner with Zambia and Ivory Coast, made nine changes from the Yemen game for the squad that will face Singapore.

He said: "Yes, we had some good results... because the boys did pretty well to understand and follow our strategies, tactics and concepts in terms of how we want to attack and defend.

"Sometimes we are lucky but that is also very important in football. The boys want to be a good team and they want to win. They are now better in terms of confidence."

He has further reasons to be optimistic. The Jordan clean sheet was his first with the Lions, while his attack has been boosted by 20-year-old Ikhsan Fandi, who flew in from Norwegian club Raufoss.

Yoshida said: "Our defence, especially goalkeeper Hassan (Sunny) and the two centre-backs, Safuwan (Baharudin) and Irfan (Fandi), showed very good concentration, attitude and leadership.

"In midfield and attack, Shahdan (Sulaiman) didn't play against Jordan but I know his ability.

"We will also have more competition up front with Ikhsan coming back, so that will be good."

The confidence is also felt in the team, with midfielder Hariss, 28, urging his team to "be up for it".

He said: "We cannot be satisfied with past results. Against Jordan, we did not create chances necessary to score and win. We need to be more mobile and give options to each other instead of just clearing the ball.

"Saudi Arabia are one of the regional heavyweights and a great challenge for us.

"We have managed a good start and, if we want to achieve something special, we have to keep working our hardest and try to push ourselves as far as possible."


SAUDI ARABIA V SINGAPORE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 'Show me the heart of a Lion: Yoshida'. Print Edition | Subscribe