Lessons from the Game Against Cambodia – World Cup / Asian Cup Qualifiers

Review of Cambodia Game

So it was 2 matches in the space of 6 days, and Singapore earned the maximum 6 points we targeted, with a 1-0 win over Afghanistan, and a 2-1 win over Cambodia.

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Starting line-up vs Cambodia. (cr: Eleven Sports Network)

There were major changes to the line-up on Tuesday against Cambodia, with key players Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin reclaiming their spots in the team. Shakir Hamzah and Faris Ramli replaced the injured Shaiful Esah and Hafiz Sujad, while Fazrul Nawaz made way for Sahil Suhaimi.

The Lions did not manage to significantly add to their goal difference, having scored only 2 goals, and conceding 1. Before the match, coach Bernd Stange did emphasize on the importance of the 3 points first, before trying to score more goals.

However, during the his post-match press conference, he lamented on how his side were not able to stamp their full authority on the game and win more convincingly. Spectators would have also agreed with him.

Although the Singapore team limited the Cambodians to very little chances, the team put their guard down after scoring their second goal. This allowed Cambodia to pull one goal back at the 65th minute, after Chan Vathanaka did brilliantly to go past his defender on the right flank, and square the ball to Sos Suhana, who finished it off with a cheeky flick with his back heel.

The returning Safuwan was very influential in the game, winning aerial duels, transitioning the play, and taking some shots himself too. He provided the assist for Faris Ramli‘s goal at the 16th minute with a headed flick-on from a Madhu Mohana long throw.

In the 47th minute, he then pressured the Cambodian number 19 into making a stray pass along his back-line, which Fazrul Nawaz latched onto and efficiently put into the back of the net.

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Fazrul proves a point, leading the attack for the Lions. (cr: FAS)

Although the goal was a gift, Fazrul still needed to finish it off past the goalkeeper and a backtracking defender, which he did as calmly as he usually does in the S-League, where he is currently joint top scorer. As highlighted by his club coach Alex Weaver later on, Fazrul was “already moving to intercept the pass before it is made,” praising his striker’s game insight and predatory instincts.

Khairul Amri was subbed off, injured, after missing his penalty at the stroke of half time. This injury would be a major cause of concern for his club LionsXII who continue their Malaysia Cup campaign on Saturday.


Round up of October

These are highlights of the matches in Group E that were played this month:
 
Singapore 1 Afghanistan 0
A lucky but crucial win for the Lions as they put one past Afghanistan through a corner.
Syria 0 Japan 3
Japan momentarily climb to the top of the group as they saw off the Syrians with a dominant second half performance.
 –
Singapore 2 Cambodia 1
The second victory in October for our Lions, as highlighted above.
 –
Syria 5 Afghanistan 2
A fantastic game of football, with numerous wonder-goals. Syria reclaim top spot from Japan with this victory.
 

The Table as it Stands

Group E

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As it stands, Singapore are now 3rd of Group E, with a comfortable 7-point lead over Afghanistan. Though it wasn’t fashionable, we have won both of our “winnable” matches this month. This keeps the pressure on the likes of Syria and Japan, and allows us some breathing space from Afghanistan and Cambodia.

Chances of Qualification for Now

Qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup is the focus (since World Cup is still a distant dream).
So can we?

As it stands (3rd position), we move on to the next round, the “third round” of Asian Cup qualification, where 24 teams will compete for a total of 11 or 12 slots. That is roughly a 50/50 chance of making it to the Asian Cup.

If we were to upset the current order and achieve 2nd position, do we qualify?

Only the four best runners up from the eight groups will automatically qualify for the Asian Cup. The rest will still go through the aforementioned “third round”. This is the ranking of the runners-up right now:

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It gets confusing, but for the ranking of runner-up teams, the results against the fifth-placed teams are not counted, due to Group F only having four teams, compared to five in all other groups. (due to disqualification of Indonesia by FIFA suspension).

​Unless we get unlikely wins against Japan and Syria, chances of us placing 2nd is faint in the first place. Even if we do, our accumulated points (excluding those earned against fifth-placed Cambodia) will have to top the likes of Iran, Iraq and Australia.

It is improbable, but we will get a clearer picture after the November fixtures.



Preparing for November

It is another double header for us, next month.
12 Nov 2015 – Singapore vs Japan
 
The Japanese will be out with a vengeance, when they visit our National Stadium in November, after a stubborn Singapore side refused to give anything away, back in June. The Singapore defence have been pretty solid so far, conceding only 2 goals, but the Japanese themselves, have conceded none. The flood gates may open this time round, but we shall remain optimistic and aim for another famous draw.
 
17 Nov 2015 – Singapore vs Syria
The general sentiment is that Singapore CAN get a result against Syria, after a praiseworthy away game against them previously, in September. However, it is to be debated as to whether or not “home advantage” exists at all, for the Lions, as their performances on home soil has been mediocre.

The Battle we’ve Lost

Although we have won and are comfortably ahead of both Afghanistan and Cambodia in the standings, one statistic stands out in my eyes.

Estimated attendances were 7000 and 9000 for our two home matches, though I suspect the exact number to be lesser.

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(cr: TNP)

In contrast to this, Cambodia had 63,000 fans packed into the Olympic Stadium at Phnom Penh when Singapore visited back in June. Subsequent home games drew in estimated crowds of 55,000 and 35,000.

Afghanistan, who are unable to host a game in their own country, due to war and political strife, still manages to attract crowds of 7,000s and 8,000s when they play in the neighbouring country of Iran.

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Passionate fans fill up the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh.

Such numbers are embarrassing for Singapore, who boast political stability and world-class facilities.

The Football Association of Singapore must see this as a failure of their strategies to develop and market the game, instead of always expecting fans to turn up unconditionally.

Here’s hoping though, that the home attendances do improve. A word of warning, the Japanese supporters will come in numbers, and I hope I will be joined by many more Reds on my side as we cheer our Lions on, on the road to the Asian Cup.

See you in November!


You can read more about why we should get behind Singapore’s WCQ campaign here.
To purchase tickets to the home games against Japan and Syria, visit sportshub.com.sg. 


Aziz Azhar
Aimless vagabond by day, second coming of Fandi Ahmad by Sunday evening.
https://i.instagram.com/manandoboy/
manandoboy.blogspot.sg


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