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)
Opinions on the Game
Aimless vagabond by day, second coming of Fandi Ahmad by Sunday evening.