Friday, 15 May 2015

SEA Games | Singapore team still on track despite loss: Aide

By Noah Tan(Today)

Singapore Under-23’s Christopher van Huizen (centre) fends off an Azul Claro Numazu player. The team’s recent loss raises more questions about their ability to compete with regional rivals. Photo: Football Association of Singapore

Pressure is on after defeat to team from Japan’s fourth division

GOTEMBA (SHIZUOKA) — Singapore national under-23 coach Aide Iskandar has insisted his side’s preparations for the upcoming South-east Asian (SEA) Games remain on track despite a 2-1 loss to Japanese fourth-division side Azul Claro Numazu yesterday. While the Republic are not regarded as favourites to win their maiden gold medal at next month’s Games, they are aiming to reach the final at the National Stadium on June 15.

But their loss to Azul Claro, who are sixth in Japan’s 16-team fourth division, has raised more questions about the team’s ability to compete with regional rivals Malaysia, Indonesia and record 14-time gold medallists Thailand, who are favourites again this time.

The Japanese side led 2-0 after just 10 minutes, but Irfan Fandi’s 41st-minute header off Ho Wai Loon’s cross ensured Singapore had something to show for.

The result could heap more pressure on Aide’s players, who have endured an inconsistent run of form recently, and had been criticised for lacking leaders on the pitch and having their desire to want to win Singapore’s first-ever SEA Games gold in football questioned.

However, Aide preferred to draw positives from his team’s overall performance. “We let in two early goals because we did not settle in quickly,” said the 39-year-old former national captain.

“But we recovered after that, and I was pleased to see the team putting into practice what we had been trying out at centralised training last week. Irfan pulled back a deserved goal for us, and we could have scored a couple more goals in a very positive second-half.”

Azul Claro coach Ken Yoshida, whose player Eiichiro Ozaki once played for S-League club Albirex Niigata, felt the result flattered his side.

“Your players started slowly probably because of the climate and timing of the game in the morning, and we took advantage with two quick goals,” he said. “However, once they settled down, it was a very good game with an even battle in midfield.”

Aide’s provisional 25-man squad face Shizuoka Sangyo University in another friendly tomorrow as part of their week-long training tour of Japan before they return home on Sunday. The team will then play two more friendlies before Aide names his final 20-man squad for the Games.

Aide, who used yesterday’s friendly to experiment with various formations and tactics, also used 24 players, with midfielder Pravin Guanasagaran left out due to injury.

Singapore are in Group A of the SEA Games tournament — an under-23 competition — with Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, who are their first opponents on June 1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

“We will be using all these matches to try out tactics and formations, and to give every player opportunities to prove that they are deserving of a place in the finalised SEA Games squad,” said Aide. “Although I am 95 per cent sure of who will be in my starting line-up, we still want to ensure we get the best out of everyone.

“So they had better use all these playing opportunities to convince the coaching team not just of their place in the final 20, but of their place in the first 11.”


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