It was no holds barred even though they were friends. Aggressive tackles were a norm as both NFA teams faced off against each other in the 5th/6th place playoff at the 25th Lion City Cup playoff. (photo by Shaun Mun Shao Jie).
There was a final roar from the crowd as the curtain came down on the 25th Canon Lion City Cup on the 16th of June at the Jalan Besar stadium.
One of the world’s oldest and most prestigious youth competitions, the tournament this year featured a fantastic mix of international and local football teams.
Spanning over 5 days, 6 teams and 11 matches, football fans from all over Singapore were treated to the unique footballing styles from countries like England, Brazil, the Netherlands and Germany.
Local fans were also given the opportunity to size up the young football players from Singapore’s Under-15 and Under -16 teams.
With all eyes on the National Football Academy’s NFA Under-15 and Under-16 teams, the local boys were under immense pressure to show their worth to the local footballing crowd. The NFA teams seemed up to the challenge and were ready to take on their international opponents.
The Singapore Under-15 side could not make it a happy opening day for the local crowd as they were humbled by the samba boys from Brazil. The Corinthians scored a furore of 7 goals in the match to put themselves on the danger radar of all the teams in the Lion City Cup.
The Under-15s were put to the sword as their below-par performance highlighted the flaws of the young team.
The Under-16s were scheduled to play their first game against Arsenal FC, a well-known ‘danger’ team hailing from England. With the background of the opponents well etched in their minds, our boys put up a strong performance against the English side.
Despite putting on a good showing throughout the game, the Under-16 Lions were also unable to start their campaign with a win, stumbling to a 2-1 loss, having put up a good performance nonetheless.
“I think the match against Arsenal FC was really tough for us because we’re only a five month old team and I feel that a draw would have been a fairer result for us,” commented NFA Under-16 coach, Robin Chitrakar.
After experiencing losses in their first games, the NFA Singapore teams knew that their next games had to be wins for both sides in order to have the slightest chance of progressing to the semi-final stages.
This saw the Under-15s put on one of their best performances of the tournament against visibly bigger opponents of PSV Eindhoven. A hard fought match saw the game end on level terms, however, the Dutch team managed to nick the game via the penalty shoot out which effectively ended the hardworking Under-15’s campaign to reach the final stages of the competition. However, the hard work put in by the NFA U-15 boys was also noticed by the PSV coach, Edwin De Wijs who in turn, praised them as well.
“It was a very open game and I must say that the Singapore boys had good chances to score,” he mentioned.
Having witnessed the strong performance put in by the German side Eintracht Frankfurt against Arsenal FC, the remaining NFA Under-16 team knew that 2 goals and a clean sheet was all they needed to secure a spot in the semi-finals as they entered the final game of the group stages against the Bundesliga club.
An intense match-up between two talented sides was expected, but the NFA Under-16s held their nerve and preserved a good 2-goal lead till the dying embers of the game.
However, late drama saw Frankfurt grab a late goal during stoppage time to snatch the semi-final spot from the NFA Under-16s. The heartbroken NFA Under-16s were however cheered on by the local crowd long after the final whistle for putting up a heroic performance for the campaign.
The NFA Under-16 coach, Robin Chitrakar, took the positives of the match-up and was quick to praise his team’s fantastic effort.
“I think the boys gave their best and we were really unlucky to have conceded in the final minutes but I’m really pleased that the boys gave their all and followed the game plan throughout,” he mentioned.
The teams that managed to progress to the semi-finals were Arsenal FC, SC Corinthians, Eintracht Frankfurt and PSV Eindhoven. The semi-finals were set up in a way where the top team of Group B was up against the second placed team of Group A while the first placed team of Group A went up against the second placed team of Group B. This entailed SC Corinthians taking on Arsenal FC and Eintracht Frankfurt FC taking on PSV Eindhoven.
At the end of match day 4, the finalists were revealed as both SC Corinthians and PSV Eindhoven had won their semi-final games to book a ticket into the finals, getting them closer to the coveted Lion City Cup trophy. Arsenal FC and Eintracht Frankfurt FC had to settle for a 3rd and 4th play-off after the semi-final defeats.
The 3rd and 4th playoffs, 5th and 6th playoffs as well as the finals were set to be played on the final day of the tournament.
In a hotly contested 3rd and 4th playoff match, it was Eintracht Frankfurt that started the game stronger; claiming the 3rd spot with a 3-2 victory over a bitterly disappointed Arsenal FC side.
Having narrowly missed out on the semi-finals, both NFA Singapore teams still had the chance to play against each other in the 5th and 6th playoffs. The NFA-Under-15s were keen to end the tournament by securing their first win whereas the NFA Under-16s aimed to get over the group stage upset by securing the 5th spot. A relatively one-sided game saw the U-16s claim the victory in style as they cruised to a 4-1 score line over their Under-15 compatriots who had put up a relatively mild performance.
The finals of the 25th Canon Lion city cup was an intense one as both teams had shown great qualities that they were two of the best teams in the tournament.
PSV Eindhoven put up a heroic performance as the slight underdogs coming into the finals. Dramatic twists in the game saw a 10-man Corinthians team hold out against the PSV side with a score of 1-1. SC Corinthians managed a victory by converting more of the penalties in the shoot-out that followed, becoming the 25th Canon Lion City Cup Champions.
Matheus Da Silva, of SC Corinthians collected the much-coveted MVP award as he showed his consistency throughout the tournament by putting in match-winning performances.
With that, the final match day of the 25th Lion City Cup came to a close with all the teams honoured for their hard work and dedication throughout the entire course of the tournament. If this year’s tournament is anything to by, the 26th Lion City Cup is set to be a cracker.