Team Singapore's team in action against South Korea during their Preliminary Round match (Photo by Vivek Prakash / Sport Singapore)
The reigning Southeast Asia champions held their own against the host nation on Friday evening and brought the game down to the wire before they lost 8-9 in what was a superbly exciting encounter between the two sides.
Captain Eugene Teo, Paul Tan, Marcus Goh, Sean Ang, Yip Yang and Koh Jian Ying all got on the scoresheet as Team Singapore gave the hosts a run for their money at the Dream Park Aquatics Centre. The aggressive Koreans were leading 8-6 by the end of the third period, but the Singaporeans rallied to cut the deficit to just one goal at the final whistle.
Team manager Lee Thin Cheong revealed that a few of the players broke down after the match, saying the defeat was especially painful because a famous victory was nearly within grasp.
“The boys gave it their all today. Everything went well but I think the pressure got to them. They knew that if they could pull off a win against Korea, they stood a very good chance to finish fourth at this Games – so there was added pressure,” he said.
Team Singapore's Jian Ying Koh in action against South Korea during their Preliminary Round match (Photo by Vivek Prakash / Sport Singapore)
According to Lee, the lessons learnt on Friday were that the Team Singapore players were more “conservative” when it came to taking their shots, as compared to the Koreans who simply fired at will whenever they saw the slightest of opportunities.
“The Korean boys certainly took their chances better. If we had taken more shots from the outside I believe things would've been very different,” he added.
The team will next take on Kazakhstan on Saturday evening. Again, Team Singapore will be the underdogs, but Lee says that the team knows what needs to be done.
“Kazakhstan will be much tougher. Their players are larger and can easily fend off ours. So we need to make sure we work even harder as a team to close them down, fight for possession and disrupt their play. We're going to go all out – there's nothing to lose now,” he said.
Team Singapore's Sean Ang (C) in action against South Korea during their Preliminary Round match (Photo by Vivek Prakash / Sport Singapore)
Apart from physiques, Kazakhstan will also have an added advantage - Team Singapore has fielded seven young players who are making their Asian Games debut. But instead of seeing it as a handicap, Lee is optimistic of the future because of this fact.
He said: “The Kazakh players definitely have more experience because they play in the Russian league, while we have several young players making their debuts. But regardless of the result, the experience gained at this Games will be vital, and we will be able to field a very talented bunch of players by the next edition who can do even better.”