LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad believes the crunch Malaysia Cup game away against Terengganu FA will be a good gauge of his players’ abilities ahead of the national team’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Japan next week.
The LionsXII face a stern test of their credentials when they travel to the Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium to take on a resurgent Terengganu FA outfit in their final Group A game.
The Singaporeans need to avoid defeat by larger than a two goals margin in order to reach the quarter-finals but the task is easier said than done.
They have already suffered defeat twice at the same venue this season, losing 3-2 en route to reaching the Malaysia FA Cup final in May before once again finding themselves on the wrong end of a 4-2 result in a league encounter three months later.
LionsXII coach Fandi understands the magnitude of the task and has urged his players to up their game to impress national team coach Bernd Stange ahead of the Singapore vs Japan World Cup qualifier.
“Yes, definitely this is the kind of high-tempo and high-intensity match which will prepare them well for the Japan game,” the 53-year-old told FourFourTwo.
“We must be strong physically and mentally because Terengganu are in top form after winning their last two matches. It’ll be similar to the FA Cup semi-final second leg where it’s do-or-die for both teams.
“The players must be prepared for battle and I’m sure this will be a good warm-up for most players who will start the game against Japan. Hopefully after this game, we will be able to match the Japanese.”
The odds seems stacked against the LionsXII, with an expected crowd of more than 40,000 baying for their blood in Kuala Terengganu.
Their away woes this season have been well documented, having won just once in the league and five in 16 games in all competitions.
Norshahrul Idlan Talaha will also be available for selection after seeing his five-match suspension reduced to three matches and will form a fearsome attacking trio with Ismail Faruqi and Issey Nakajima-Farran.
However, Fandi remains optimistic of his side’s chances to get at least a draw.
“Let’s not [talk] about our away form,” the national legend pleaded.
“We don’t want to put any more pressure on the players saying that we’re bad away. We just leave it there and now it’s more important that everyone gives 200 per cent effort.
“Those who start have to battle hard and those on the bench must be prepared to come on. It’ll be hell there, but I believe the players can take the pressure because they’ve been through this many times.
Fandi can at least take comfort from the fact that key players Izzdin Shafiq and Madhu Mohana are not suspended after clarifying their yellow-card counts with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
“Yes, that’s good news because we really need them,” he admitted.
“Hopefully fingers crossed, this is a good opportunity for us to try and beat them (Terengganu) there.
“The positive mindset to go for a win must be there and we’ll try to get an early goal – just like during the FA Cup semi-final second leg.”comments