Even the most die-hard of Lions fans would agree on one thing.
There is little hope, or close to none, for Singapore’s Lions in its opening World Cup qualifier against Korea Republic on 16 November in Seoul.
The facts are indisputable.
The Koreans are ranked 24th in the world, while the Lions are way down below at 155th.
Rankings aside, the South Koreans prowess against a Southeast Asian side was illustrated on 17 October when they hammered 6-0 by the Koreans in a friendly encounter.
Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s top dog.
And with players like Son Heung Min, Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Kang-in and Kim Min-jae in the mix among others, and with a sold-out 66-000 seater Seoul World Cup Stadium awaiting the Lions, it is with little wonder that fans are expecting the Lions to be led to the slaughterhouse.
Lions coach Takayuki Nishigaya believes that the Koreans will also be prone to mistakes, and in the game, “we cannot give too much respect to them”, he shared with CNA.
“We are (all) human … they make mistakes, we also make mistakes.
“We should focus on our game and what we can control.”
For the Lions, the strategy would be to pack the defence, and shut out the Koreans for as long as possible.
There is also a reminder of the time when the Lions under Bernd Stange managed a 0-0 draw against Japan in Saitama in 2015, with a few players from that team still in Nishigaya’s 25.
The Lions under Radojko Avramovic have also churned out a 0-0 draw against China in 2006, and a 2-0 win over Asian Cup champions Iraq in that same year.
WHO WILL NISHIGAYA SELECT
It will be interesting to see who will occupy the first 11 spots in the team.
Despite not being able to play for the Lions for almost a year because of injuries or recovery, Irfan Fandi is now back in the squad, along with his younger brother Ikhsan, who has been out of action since last December due to a knee injury.
So is Safuwan Baharudin (photo below).
Whether they make the first 11 would be Nishigaya’s call, and he will be scrutinised regardless.
Whatever the result nonetheless, fans will still need to back the national team regardless the result, even if the outcome is as sure as the sun rising in the east.
Any aftermath angst should be pointed to the people who make the decisions in football, and not against the Lions.
Hariss Harun and his legion of lions are on the field of play, and they will be in need of the country’s support.
As Hariss himself said, “I hope the boys will realise that this is a massive stage for us, and the standing of the opponents that we are going to face.”
“The onus is on them, being the home team and the favourites as the top ranked team in Group C, to go out there and get the result.
“We have seen what these players are capable of but seeing and playing against them for real are two different things, so we have to be ready for the challenge on Thursday.”
MAIN PHOTO: AFC