Five things we learnt from Singapore Selection 0-5 Juventus: Gulf in class apparent
1) Hassan Sunny, the man with steel nerves
If the No. 1 jersey had still been up for grabs between Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud before the Juventus game, there should probably be a clear winner for Bernd Stange after Saturday night.
Given the nod ahead of Izwan, Hassan was by the far the busiest man on the pitch. He was called into action as early as two minutes in and by the tenth minute, had already made three splendid saves including a superb tip around the post to stop an Andrea Pirlo free-kick.
While he eventually went on to concede all five goals, it was only because the defenders had left him terribly exposed all night.
The Italian media were all visibly impressed with the Singapore custodian, especially with the way he went about his job without being overawed by his world-class opponents. A man with nerves of steel indeed.
2) Shahril Ishak remains Singapore’s best attacking outlet
When news broke that Shahril Ishak would be joining Malaysia Premier League team Johor Darul Tak’zim II at the start of the year, there were fears that he would not be the same player without top division football. Against Juventus, those questions were somewhat answered.
Juventus may have kept a clean sheet, but the Singapore captain was at the heart of most of the chances created while he was on the pitch. His touches were not lacking as well, linking up the midfield and attack constantly whenever he had the ball.
And when his number was shown on the substitutes’ board, he was given a rousing ovation as he walked off the pitch.
If Singapore has any hopes of defending her Suzuki Cup trophy at year-end, much of it will lie on Shahril’s shoulders.
3) The National Stadium may have returned, but not the Kallang Roar
The 27,388 fans that turned up might have exceeded expectations, yet the noise generated was generally underwhelming.
Much of the promotional activities had centered on the return of the Kallang Roar in the lead-up to the opening match at the Singapore Sports Hub, but the fans never stood a chance of replicating it inspite of the echo off the dome-like structure.
The stadium announcer did try to get the fans going but more often than not failed to sustain it throughout the game. The only successful item that got fans going was the Kallang Wave.
“Juventus had capacity crowds in Indonesia and Australia, so I am not proud of having 30,000 today as I believe it should be fully crowded,” Singapore Selection coach Bernd Stange said in his post-match press conference.
“This is the first time in my career that I have coached against top-quality opposition in such high-class venues that is not played to capacity.”
With Singapore set to face Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup, fans will need to step up and turn up in numbers to bring famous roar back.
4) Fitness issues are still a problem for Singapore
The 5-0 scoreline not only suggested the gulf in talent and skills, but also the gap in fitness levels.
Bernd Stange has been lamenting the inability of his charges to keep up their performance for the entire 90 minutes since the Austrian training tour. Against Juventus, Singapore arguably matched Juventus in the first half, only to concede twice through a moment of brilliance and madness each.
In the second half though, it was a different story all together as they were torn apart rapidly at the back. The host of changes might not have helped, but it was still apparent that their intensity had dipped considerably.
Stange definitely has a huge task at hand ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
5) Al-Qaasimy, Singapore’s No. 1 right back
He may still be uncapped at international level, but Al-Qaasimy looks to be right in line to inherit the right back spot in the Singapore National Team and make it his own in years to come.
The young fullback has jumped to the head of the queue since Faritz Hameed went down with an unfortunate injury, and has appeared to have earned the trust of Stange after featuring consistently since the Austrian training trip.
With veteran option Juma'at Jantan also on the outer and with the Singapore coach's preference for up-and-coming youngsters, Al-Qaasimy could not have done more to stake his claim.
Against Juventus, the Courts Young Lions captain put in a good shift, standing firm against the black and white tide and even pulling off a crunching tackle that took out left back Patrice Evra. After a 2-year spell in which he was affected by National Service, it seems Al-Qaasimy is ready to move on to the next level.