Singapore's target of improving on their previous finish at the Netball World Cup was dealt a blow following yesterday's heavy defeat by Zambia. Ranked 15th in the world, one rung above their opponents, the Republic succumbed 36-67 at Sydney's Allphones Arena.
The loss leaves Ruth Aitken's side bottom of Pool G in the qualification round and in a tricky position.
Instead of a meeting with world No. 22 Sri Lanka, whom they had beaten in an earlier round, Singapore will now play ninth-ranked Barbados for 13th spot. Lose and they will be battling to avoid having to settle for the wooden spoon in the 16-team competition.
At the 2011 World Cup, hosts Singapore had finished 15th and hopes were high that they would achieve a higher placing this time.
Aitken, a former world champion as player and coach with New Zealand, did not hide her disappointment after witnessing a fifth straight defeat.
She said: "We've shown plenty of fighting spirit throughout the competition but today, I didn't see that from the girls. They got disheartened during the game and couldn't recover. We've got to toughen up for the next game, which will be a big challenge for us."
Despite a promising start - the score was tied at 6-6 midway through the first quarter - Singapore allowed Zambia to seize the initiative and a six-point lead after the first 15 minutes widened to 21 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Zambia's unorthodox, slow-tempo game and low bounced passes flummoxed their opponents, who did not make a single interception.
Said goal-shooter Charmaine Soh, who earned her 50th cap: "As a team we didn't execute well at all. We did not defend and our shooting could have been better too."
She and her fellow attackers converted only 61 per cent of their chances while their counterparts were decisive inside the goal circle, with a 92 per cent success rate.
Wing attack Kimberly Lim's verve and on-court movement were among the few highlights for Aitken as she sought a response from her players against the waiting Caribbean side.
She said: "There's always a chance of an upset but the girls need to pick themselves up quickly after this performance."