There are two acts in this play in which the encore will be a place in the group stage with China, South Korea and Thailand as the lead actors.
And in its journey to make the cut, Singapore got past the first act after a 2-1 victory over Guam at the National Stadium, with President Tharman Shanmugaratnam also in attendance.
157th-ranked Singapore through Christopher van Huizen and Jacob Mahler did the dirty on Guam, but Guam’s 39-year-old Jason Cunliffe then struck with only one minute of regulation time left, and proceeded to celebrate like 201st-ranked Guam had just qualified for the World Cup.
It is not all a bed of roses for the Lions, given that there is still another 90 minutes of action to come in Dededo, Guam at the Guam Football Association (GFA) National Training Center (photo below), where the match will be played.
The return clash will also be played at 2.45pm in Guam on 17 October, with thunderstorms anticipated.
Only Guamanians will be celebrating now.
“We made some changes for the second half and it definitely improved in our favour,” the territory’s coach Ross Awa told the Straits Times.
“We got a goal and that’s a positive for us going to our home.”
He added that “in front of our home crowd, this is where our boys really perform.”
SHOULD HAVE BEEN 10-1
Fans at the National Stadium, and for those who watched the match from the comfort of their homes, will agree that a single goal lead for the Lions is somewhat a risky proposition.
And instead of settling for 2-1, the score should well have been 10-1, if only Takayuki Nishigaya’s men were more pinpoint precise in front of goal.
Central to this profligacy was Shawal Anuar, who missed a few sitters.
The statistics support the theory – Singapore had 19 shots on goal, while Guam had five.
DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY
Lions coach NIshigaya still saw the 2-1 lead as a “positive win” for the Lions, even though the team should rightly have sealed the qualification to the next round by making use of the home ground advantage.
“I see this as a positive win for Singapore, we were definitely in control for the entire 90 minutes, and we won,” he told The Straits Times.
“This means we’re one step ahead of Guam even though we’re going into their territory for the second leg.
“What’s very important for us now is to make sure that we are recovered physically and mentally and that we’re 100 per cent ready for the next game.”
One step ahead, but only one goal away from Guam making it all square.
THE NEXT ACT
If Guam is able to overturn the one goal deficit, and get the better of the Lions in the return leg on 17 October, Singapore will face the prospect of not having any major competitive matches over the next year, given that the winner of this tie will qualify for Group C of the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asian Cup qualifiers.
And that is a prospect which is unthinkable, but somewhat staring into the eyes of Nishigaya and the people who have employed him to lead the Lions.
MAIN PHOTO: ASIAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION