Football: Win vital to repair Lions' shattered confidence

Adam Swandi (on bench) at yesterday's training. The forward says he has recovered fully from the damaged ankle ligament that almost ruled him out of the SEA Games.
Adam Swandi (on bench) at yesterday's training. The forward says he has recovered fully from the damaged ankle ligament that almost ruled him out of the SEA Games.PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Tardy and Young Lions looking forward to Laos game after two damaging losses

Hopes of a SEA Games semi-final spot have faded, but coach Richard Tardy has an equally pressing goal as he prepares his Under-22 footballers for today's game against Laos.
 

The Young Lions are in desperate need of a win to repair their confidence after heart-breaking losses to Myanmar and Malaysia, and victory against Laos will be worth more than just three points in Group A.

Tardy told The Straits Times yesterday: "We are playing for pride and that is very important. These are young boys but they must learn to be professional.

"Some of them were crying after the Malaysia game but we must now focus on ending this SEA Games well. That means two wins and finishing third in the group."

To reach the last four, Singapore would need to beat Laos and Brunei next Wednesday by big scorelines and hope either Malaysia or Myanmar lose their final two games.

Today's game at the Selayang Stadium, under the sapping 4pm sun, is Singapore's third in five days and the players are feeling the strain.

Left-back Syahrul Sazali and attacking midfielders Hami Syahin and Amiruldin Asraf Nodin, who scored against Malaysia, are injured and will likely miss the match.

Playmaker Adam Swandi, who replaced Amiruldin in the Malaysia clash, said he has recovered fully from the damaged ankle ligament that almost ruled him out of the biennial Games.

The 21-year-old Home United forward brings trickery and unpredictable dribbles to the team and he said it was vital that Singapore be aggressive from the opening whistle and press Laos high up in their own half.

He added: "We must try to score a few goals. That will pick everyone up. The mood last night was bad. Even at breakfast it was still hard to take."

The atmosphere was less grim at yesterday's hour-long training session as the squad, sans the injured trio who sat on the sidelines icing their knees and ankles, went through a light session with plenty of laughter while playing monkey-in-the-middle. Even the usually stoic Tardy broke out into the occasional smile.

It was important to remember these were still kids, the Frenchman insisted, and they were up against older, more experienced teams.

"This tournament is too early for them. Boys like Syahrul and Ikhsan (Fandi) should be playing in Under-19 or Under-18 competitions. This was too soon for them," he said.

Nothing less than a win over Laos will do or the Republic could be eliminated from the tournament even before tomorrow's opening ceremony.

The Laotians will be no pushovers though. Myanmar needed two stoppage-time goals to beat them 3-1 on Wednesday.

Tardy warned: "We start as favourites, which we did not against Myanmar and Malaysia and that has pressure as well.

"If we win and score many goals, that is great. But all I want is a win. We need that first."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Win vital to repair lions' shattered confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe