Bahrain vs Singapore: Can the Lions bounce back from Cambodia disappointment?

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Friendly| Bahrain National Stadium| Thurs 1 Sep | 7.15pm AST (Fri 2 Sep, 12.15am SGT) 

Billed as

Singapore’s opportunity to recover from the shock loss to Cambodia a little more than a month ago.

The lowdown

Bahrain Form

  • Uzbekistan 1-0 Bahrain (WCQ)

  • Bahrain 3-0 Yemen (WCQ)

  • Bahrain 2-0 Lebanon (Friendly)

  • North Korea 2-0 Bahrain (WCQ)

  • Bahrain 2-0 Philippines (WCQ)

Singapore Form

  • Cambodia 2-1 Singapore (Friendly)

  • Vietnam 3-0 (AET) Singapore (AYA Bank Cup)

  • Myanmar 0-1 Singapore (AYA Bank Cup)

  • Afghanistan 2-1 Singapore (WCQ)

  • Singapore 2-1 Myanmar (Friendly)

Just turn up against Cambodia and stroll to a win… at least that was what the scenario used to be.

Singapore fans were left shell-shocked when the Lions fell to a 2-1 away defeat against the Angkor Warriors in late July.

Fair enough, they were playing in front of a boisterous home crowd and were without a number of key players. Cambodia are also no longer the whipping boys they once were.

However, those factors are not substantial enough to justify a first defeat to Cambodia in 44 years.

A defeat against the once-minnows of ASEAN football has drew much flak from the fans, just months before the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Suzuki Cup kicks off. With so much negativity surrounding the Lions at the moment, it is imperative that they bounce back with a respectable display (if not result) in this match.

Obviously, it is easier said than done as they face up against a Bahrain side 33 places above them in the FIFA world rankings at 126. Traditionally the Lions do not fare well when playing against Middle East opponents.

Bahrain are not having the best of times though, after some indifferent results over the last couple of years.

Failing to make it out of the group stages in the 2015 Asian Cup, they followed up with a disappointing World Cup qualification second round campaign that saw them finish fourth in their group behind Uzbekistan, North Korea and Philippines.

Coach Sergio Batista, who managed the 2008 Olympics-winning Argentina team, bit the dust after a one-year tenure and has since been replaced by the lesser-known Miroslav Soukup.

The latter’s immediate focus to build together a squad to compete in the third round of qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup – which is likely to kick off early next year.

Team News

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The likes of Hariss has been recalled for the friendly

Singapore have recalled their big guns for this one, with the overseas-based quintuple of Hassan Sunny, Baihakki Khaizan, Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Shahril Ishak all back in the fold.

There is plenty of experience in this team, with four players out of the 24-strong squad making over 100 international appearances – Baihakki (124), Daniel Bennett (125), Shahril (129) and Khairul Amri (105).

The only surprise call-up is forward Iqbal Hussain, who has been rewarded for his recent sparking form at club level for Hougang United.

On the other hand, Bahrain have named an unchanged squad despite a change of coach.

Most of the players are playing in the domestic top-flight, bar midfielder Abdullah Omar – who turns out for Saudi Arabian outfit Ettifaq FC. The 29-year-old had played in Switzerland from 2009 to 2012 with Neuchatel Xamax.

Key Battle: Ismail Abdul-Latif vs Baihakki Khaizan

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Bai is back with the national team and his experience will be vital

The most obvious threat of Bahrain comes from the experienced Abdul-Latif, who has featured in three Asian Cup campaigns and scored almost 40 goals in 100 over international appearances.

Baihakki is likely to be entrusted with the responsibility of stopping the 29-year-old in his tracks.

Age may be catching up with the Johor Darul Ta’zim II centre-back, but the 32-year-old remains Singapore’s most reliable defender with his superb reading of the game.

The Coaches

New Bahrain coach Miroslav Soukup is just barely a month old into his two-year contract, but should be feeling the pressure in the hot seat.

No Bahrain coach has lasted more than two years in their reign since his Czech compatriot Milan Macala did, from 2008 to 2010. Since then, notable names like Peter Taylor, Gabriel Calderon and Batista have all came and gone.

Meanwhile Singapore counterpart V Sundramoorthy is similarly feeling the heat after starting off his reign with a 1-0 win over Myanmar.

The Republic’s first local coach in 16 years is keen to take the job on a permanent basis, but recent results have not exactly helped his bid.

With two and a half months to go before the Suzuki Cup, the Dazzler has got to find the right formula fast to achieve his target of reaching the last four of the biennial tournament.  

Last Five Meetings

  • Bahrain 2-0 Singapore (Friendly, Nov ’14)
  • Bahrain 3-1 Singapore (Friendly, Feb ’13)
  • Singapore 0-1 Bahrain (Friendly, May ‘08)
  • Bahrain 3-1 Singapore (Friendly, Oct ‘07)
  • Bahrain 2-0 Singapore (WCQ, Feb ’01)

 

Facts and Figures

  • Singapore have lost all six head-to-head encounters against Bahrain, with the most recent one being a 2-0 defeat just before the 2014 Suzuki Cup.

  • Safuwan was the last Singapore player to score against Bahrain, with that goal coming in a 3-1 away loss back in February 2013.

  • Fazrul Nawaz and Faris Ramli have accounted for three of  Singapore’s five goals in 2016, but both are not called up due to injuries.

  • All five Singapore goals in 2016 have been scored from inside the area, with two coming through headers.

FourFourTwo prediction

The Lions are likely to put up a determined display, but may still come up short against better opposition. Bahrain to edge it 2-1…

Photos: FAS