To mark the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) 125th anniversary, the Singapore national team took to the National Stadium pitch against giants Argentina on Tuesday evening, but were simply outplayed, going down 0-6 in the glamour friendly.
Argentina’s Alejandro Gomez (left) competes for the ball against Singapore’s Shakir Hamzah. Photo: Sport Singapore
While obviously displeased with the absence of superstars Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, the presence of world-class players such as Paris Saint-Germain’s Angel Di Maria and Juventus’ Paulo Dybala did provide some consolation to the 28,000-strong sea of blue-and-white.
For Singapore, ranked 157 in the world, playing against the world’s second-best team can “benefit our players and coaches in terms of invaluable exposure as well as enhance the level of sporting entertainment for fans”, according to coach V. Sundramoorthy.
Argentina’s Angel Di Maria firing off a shot at goal. Photo: Sport Singapore
Sundram’s charges, who had just recently conceded a 1-2 loss to Taiwan in their second Asian Cup qualification game, managed to hold the fort against an aggressive 2-3-4-1 formation, and conceded only two goals in the first half.
But after the break, it was a different story altogether.
Hassan Sunny’s goalkeeping heroics had to be cut short to avoid any injury after the half and Izwan Mahbud, who came on later, faced the full brunt of the South American offence, which was capped off by a cheeky backheel from Di Maria in injury time.
At the post-match press conference, Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli expressed his disappointment that his charges put in only two goals at the half, saying, "That’s where we failed, in terms of structure and dominating the game that the match deserved."
Sampaoli did receive some consolation through the stats, as the opening goals came from five first-time scorers, and added that he was hopeful for his team’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
Argentina’s Lucas Biglia (right) competes for the ball against Singapore’s Safuwan Baharudin. Photo: Sport Singapore
For his Singapore counterpart, Singapore’s performance was commendable against a team that won second place in the last world cup.
“I think the boys tried their best,” said Sundram. “We sat deep, tried to organise our boys and we conceded two goals from set plays. That’s credible from the boys because they were compact.
“In the second half, with all the changes, the boys were tired and we needed to just try to do our best,” added the 51-year-old, pointing out that some of his charges were fasting.