FFT's Gary Koh hails the Young Lions' new driving force in the centre of the park, but thinks Singapore are still far off their peak...
Star Performer: Pravin Guanasagaran
Deployed in centre midfield for Singapore, Pravin put on a solid performance restricting Myanmar’s quick attacks down the middle. The Australia-based player was always a move ahead of his counterparts in his tackling, reading and distribution. Although unable to prevent the Young Lions from succumbing to eventual defeat, his standout performance earned him the confidence of coach Aide Iskandar, who has declared he will be starting the Young Lions’ next game against Cambodia.
Can Do Much Better: Sahil Suhaimi & Adam Swandi
Sahil was given a chance to make amends after a sub-par performance against the Philippines but he did not make full use of that opportunity. While the LionsXII striker appeared to improve on his previous showing in terms of running at defenders and finding space in the final third, his final touch left much to be desired as he squandered numerous chances. His failure to convert his opportunities in front of goal played a part in Singapore’s demise at the hands of Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Adam, despite being deployed in his favoured attacking midfield position, similarly failed to make an impression following an anonymous outing in the middle of the park against Philippines. The former Metz trainee proved unproductive again, and he struggled to make an impact. The Young Lions were thus forced to rely on wingers Faris Ramli, Stanely Ng and subsequently Suria Prakash to supply the passes forward.
Their failure to defend set-plays undid the Young Lions in the end, with their fear of conceding ultimately getting the better of them as they panicked after going behind. The first goal was attributed to poor marking from Shakir Hamzah and Sheikh Abdul Hadi on Kaung Sat Naing, allowing the striker to flick the ball on for Maynmar captain Nay Lin Tun to fire home unopposed at the far post. Later, Syazwan Buhari’s failure to anticipate the bounce of the ball allowed Ko Oo Ye’s direct free kick to slip through his fingertips.
Aide Iskandar’s decision to deploy Pravin Gunasagaran paid dividends as the centre midfielder stabilised Singapore in the middle and allowed them to dictate play. Fellow midfielder Safirul Sulaiman was a direct benefactor of Pravin’s performance, going forward as an attacking threat from set-pieces. That forced Myanmar into taking a more cautious approach compared to their more cavalier display against Indonesia. On the other hand, where Aide fell short was in trying to keep his team composed after falling behind, despite switching from a 4-2-3-1 formation to 4-4-2 late in the game.
The Young Lions with supposed bigger reputations – Adam Swandi, Shakir Hamzah, Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli – have yet to set the tournament alight despite their undoubted potential and experience at the senior level. The quartet have so far been below average, and need to step up more as reference points for the rest of the team. The defeat to Myanmar was a battling display overall, but the result is not good enough. The leading lights need to regain their confidence, and fast, to perform at the standards they are capable of, if the host team are to extend their SEA Games campaign beyond the group stages.
All images: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo