SEA GAMES 2019: Young Lions end campaign on a high
06 December 2019
Singapore closed off their football campaign at the 30th Southeast Asian Games with a 7-0 thumping of Brunei at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila on Thursday (5 Dec), ending a campaign where things could have gone better.
Having been unable to find the net in their opening four matches while conceding six goals (1 draw, 3 losses), Singapore finally broke through when skipper Irfan Fandi nodded home in the fourth minute.
The early goal raised hopes among Singapore fans in the stadium and those at home that the floodgates would open. That would eventually happen in the second half as Brunei held on resolutely while the footballing gods continued to make jesters of the Young Lions.
As Singapore head coach Fandi would note in the post-match interview, “luck was simply not on our side, whether we play good or bad.”
“We hit the post and the bar a few times here in all the games, you can see that against Indonesia or the other games,” said Fandi who also contended that every chance gone right, Faris Ramli could easily have bagged a double hat-trick against Brunei.
A second yellow card for midfielder Hanif Farhan saw Brunei reduced to 10-men, and it was not long before things turned Singapore’s way.
Ikhsan Fandi slotted home a long pass from Jacob Mahler in the 68th minute and the younger of Fandi’s two sons on the pitch went on to complete a hat-trick with two goals in stoppage time.
Faris, who was one of two overaged players called up for this Under-22 tournament, ended a frustrating run of missed chances with two goals, with Saifullah Akbar completing the list of scorers.
Irfan Fandi is the first player to score for Singapore in this tournament (Photo credit: SNOC)
Singapore ended with 4 points to finish in fourth spot in Group B. Vietnam topped the group after drawing 2-2 with Thailand, a result that knocked the Thais out as well. Indonesia took second place in the group and will play Myanmar in the semi-finals, while Vietnam face Cambodia.
Coach Fandi Ahmad was relieved that his boys were able to leave Manila on a high.
“I thought we played quite well but we missed chances. I can see the nervousness in our players because they are sometimes too eager to score and then get frustrated,” said Fandi.
Ikhsan Fandi found the net thrice in the second half to complete a hat-trick (Photo credit: SNOC)
“I think the most important thing is that we created enough chances to score… I think we could have done and played better (in previous matches) but hopefully moving forward we can have better preparation.”
Fandi said the pressure was on the boys after 540 minutes of goalless football before this match “but the important thing is to win to close off this campaign.”
“We were inconsistent. Against Laos we didn't play well but we had enough chances to win 3-0 or 4-0 but you know, that's football sometimes,” he noted.
Hami Syahin in action against Brunei (Photo credit: SNOC)
“I think we’ve played better teams like North Korea, or Fiji who are strong physically, against Hong Kong, and we rise to the occasion.
“I think this is a habit of our local players because when we play lower team, we go down to where they are and then we follow their style. So today, we did the same after leading 1-0 and then we start playing (to their standard) and started missing and then the confidence very quickly went down.
“Against Vietnam, I can see their standard is very high but our boys managed to compete in terms of physicality and tactical play. But technically we’re not the best and that’s where we have a big problem. Sometimes these boys tend to lose ball, lose the first touch, and make bad passes because of the pressure.”
Defender Ryhan Stewart making a foray up the field (Photo credit: SNOC)
While unflinching of his assessment of the team, the Singapore football legend also sounded the alarm that things must change.
“I don't think we are this standard but for the future I'm not sure because now this is a time when we still have some players who can play, but for coming years we have really work very hard to get to that level,” he said.
“I also want to thank the fans. Whether they cheer us or boo us, we know we have to do our best every time. I hope they know how hard we struggle but we are just thankful for their support.