WCQ/ACQ PREVIEW: Singapore vs Cambodia

Reflections on the Afghanistan Victory 

It was 3 points in the bag for our Lions against Afghanistan on Thursday, in front of a crowd size that would have more appropriately filled the Jalan Besar Stadium. (Official figures put it as 7128, but it felt more like 5000).

By no means was it a comfortable 1-0 victory. In fact, the Lions probably should have lost the contest, having given the opponents several clear chances on goal, only for the Afghan strikers to miraculously fail to convert any one of them. You can watch the highlights here.

Inspirational posters from tumblr say, “Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.”

Singapore were hardly able to keep the ball as they felt the absence of stalwarts Hariss and Safuwan. The partnership of Izzdin Shafiq and Zulfahmi Ariffin was too slow in moving the ball around and lacked the tenacity to break Afghanistan’s spells of possession.


Hariss (left) and Safuwan (right) have become essential to the team. (cr: guamsportsnetwork.com)

Bernd Stange‘s insistence on playing Fazrul Nawaz as a winger is also puzzling. Fazrul is currently the in-form striker in the S-League, with 14 goals to his name. Spectators would have easily blamed him for his poor defensive positioning on the flanks, but to be fair, the guy’s not supposed to be deployed there.

Shahril Ishak was taken out at half time to be replaced by Faris Ramli. And rightly so. The inclusion of Shahril in the line-up did nothing to mend the gaping hole in the middle of the park, as the attacking midfielder failed to provide the link between his midfield and striker.

Faris injected some much needed pace into the game, but it was the Afghans who continued to threaten. Lacking control of the football, Singapore were limited to long passes towards isolated striker Khairul Amri. 


Khairul Amri (centre) received a special Golden Boot for achieving 100 caps for the National Team. (cr: FAS)

It became apparent that we would only score from a set piece, which was exactly what happened at the 72nd minute, when Faris’ corner kick found Amri unmarked in the six-yard box.

Sometimes the game has its own ways of balancing things out. If we were unlucky not to have beaten Syria previously, maybe the footballing gods have given us this good fortune in return. I cannot help but thank our lucky stars that we emerged victorious. That said, let’s now look at our next opponents, Cambodia.

Opposition Watch: Cambodia’s Latest Results

Cambodia 0 Singapore 4

Cambodia 0 Afghanistan 1

Japan 3 Cambodia 0

Cambodia 0 Syria 6

The Angkor Warriors are ranked 186th by FIFA. With four straight losses in qualification, they have collected zero points, and neither have they managed to score a single goal. They have also conceded 14 goals in total. Out of the 5 goals that Singapore have scored in the campaign, 4 of them were against Cambodia.

Opposition Watch: Key Players


Cambodia national team head coach Lee Tae-Hoon has picked a young squad with an average of 22.

With a string of defeats and no goals scored, it is hard to pick out the key players of the team, but the following players are worth a look:

1) Sou Yaty (Goalkeeper)

It was due to Sou Yaty’s saves that his team was able to limit the damage done by Japan to just 3 goals. Yaty then produced a splendid penalty save against Syria, but was unfortunate to concede 6 on that day. More recently, he saved another penalty in a warm-up friendly.

2) Prak Mony Udom (Forward)

Regarded as one of the country’s brightest prospects, with potential to play overseas. The 21 year old forward was out of the team’s visit to Japan due to injury, but returned to the squad and featured against Syria in September. Udom’s talents were on display in Singapore last June during the SEA Games, where he scored 2 goals in the U23 competition.

3) Chan Vathanaka (Forward)

The young forward has been in and out of the Cambodian squad, but is a goalscoring threat whenever he is in. He is currently the top scorer in the C-League, and had remarkably scored 8 goals in a single game earlier this year.

Opinions on the Game

Although they are identified as the weakest in the group, the Royal Khmers are not known to sit back and put men behind ball all the time. They do attack with pace if given the chance, and commit more bodies forward than the defensive-minded Lions.
Though this approach is admirable, they are yet to be rewarded with a goal and have conceded the most in the group. It remains to be seen if coach Lee opts to put his faith in the rising stars such as Udom, Vathanaka and Keo Sokpheng, over the tried and tested partnership of Khuon Labouravy and Kouch Sokumpheak in attack.
The more pragmatic Lions turned in their worst performance against Afghanistan but are looking to bounce back with the return of Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin.
Baihakki (left) and Madhu (right) are starting to form a formidable defensive partnership. (cr: straitstimes.com)
The centre back duo of Baihakki Khaizan and Madhu Mohana is looking strong and will look to give the team another clean sheet, while Shaiful Esah‘s set piece delivery could be useful against a side with defensive frailties in the air.
After coming on to make a difference in the second half, Faris Ramli must feel that he deserves a start in this game.
Faris (right) looked lively after coming on as a sub in the second half. (cr: FAS)
The Lions cannot be content with just a win. Ideally they should use this fixture to score as many goals as possible. Goal difference could be the deciding factor as to whether or not we qualify for the Asian Cup through this round.
Here’s hoping the Kallang faithful get to see an all out attacking display, as there has been little of that from any Singaporean side at the National Stadium since it’s reopening.

If you can’t make it to the National Stadium on 13th Oct, you can catch the game live on Eleven Sports Network (Singtel TV Channel 109).
And if you plan to head to the stadium but have not purchased your tickets yet, you can get them at sportshub.com.sg, or at the box office.
You can read more about why we should get behind Singapore’s WCQ campaign here. 

Aziz Azhar
Aimless vagabond by day, second coming of Fandi Ahmad by Sunday evening.

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