Sundram ready to give youngsters chance to impress

Ikhsan Fandi (centre) in action during training at the National Stadium. The 18-year-old forward was an unused substitute in last Friday's 3-2 friendly win against the Maldives but is likely to feature against Chinese Taipei today.
Ikhsan Fandi (centre) in action during training at the National Stadium. The 18-year-old forward was an unused substitute in last Friday's 3-2 friendly win against the Maldives but is likely to feature against Chinese Taipei today.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

With the Lions getting back to winning ways after a 16-month winless run, national football coach V. Sundram Moorthy has hinted at blooding younger players in today's inconsequential Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Chinese Taipei.

In line for more prominent roles could be Fulham Under-18 forward Ben Davis, 17, and Albirex Niigata playmaker Adam Swandi, 22.

"The youngsters have been doing well in training and working for the opportunity to be given a chance," said Sundram. "For us in this game, we can always look at fresh faces."

Lions custodian Hassan Sunny said the current squad have a good mix of senior and young players, which has helped the youngsters find their feet faster.

"When you step into the national team, it's not the same as at club level - the intensity is higher. That's where we (senior players) come in to guide them and tell them what's right, what's wrong," said the 33-year-old, who plies his trade for Thai League 2 club Army United.

"It's a two-way relationship. The young players have been doing everything we expect of them so far and that's a good sign."

 

  • -14 

    The Lions have slumped by 14 rungs to 171st in the Fifa world rankings since hosting Chinese Taipei last year.

Ben was an unused substitute in the 3-2 friendly win against the Maldives last Friday while Adam came off the bench in the 80th minute to replace Shawal Anuar.

Fellow forward Ikhsan Fandi, 18, was also an unused substitute.

Both Singapore and Chinese Taipei have already been eliminated and the Lions will finish bottom of the group regardless of the result.

The win against the higher-ranked Maldives has injected some confidence back into the Lions' veins, but Sundram's men are well aware that their opponents today present a far stiffer challenge.

Singapore had succumbed to a shock 1-2 loss to the Taiwanese in the reverse fixture at home last June, conceding twice after taking an early lead.

Then, the Lions were three rungs above Chinese Taipei in the Fifa rankings at 157th but last year's winless run saw them fall to 171st, while their opponents have climbed to 134th.

"The boys are more confident after the Maldives game but, as you saw, we gave away two soft goals and we have to be more careful against Chinese Taipei, keep possession and take our chances," said Sundram.

Added Hassan: "I think everyone is in a good mood now and we want to end the competition on a high note and get a better result than the last time.

"But, of course, it's going to be a tougher game compared to the Maldives. Chinese Taipei have better individual players and they're technically better as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2018, with the headline 'Sundram ready to give youngsters chance to impress'. Print Edition | Subscribe