2018 World Cup Qualifiers| National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub | Tues 13 September | 8pm local time
A straightforward three points for the Lions (on paper).
Not pretty, not merry, but it was the result that ultimately mattered as Singapore eked out an unconvincing 1-0 victory against Afghanistan at the Sports Hub last Thursday night.
The Lions could have easily conceded three goals or more if not for some wasteful finishing by the visitors and a couple of goal-line clearances by Nazrul Nazari and Baihakki Khaizan.
Surely better performances are required if they want to stay in contention to progress out of Group E. Only the winners of the eight qualifying groups and the four best runners-up will advance to the third round of 2018 World Cup qualifiers, as well as qualify directly for the 2019 Asian Cup.
Their chances seem pretty good though after amassing seven points from the first four games, just two behind second-placed Syria and three behind leaders Japan. With tough home games coming up against those two nations next month, it is imperative the Lions stay on the winning track when they host Cambodia on Tuesday night.
- Singapore 1-0 Afghanistan (WCQ)
- Syria 1-0 Singapore (WCQ)
- Qatar 4-0 Singapore (Friendly)
- Japan 0-0 Singapore (WCQ)
- Cambodia 0-4 Singapore (WCQ)
- Cambodia 0-6 Syria (WCQ)
- Japan 3-0 Cambodia (WCQ)
- Laos 2-1 Cambodia (Friendly)
- Cambodia 2-0 Bhutan (Friendly)
- Cambodia 0-1 Afghanistan (WCQ)
Last Five Meetings
- Cambodia 0-4 Singapore (Jun’ 15)
- Singapore 4-2 Cambodia (Nov’ 14)
- Singapore 1-0 Cambodia (Nov’ 13)
- Singapore 5-0 Cambodia (Dec’ 08)
- Cambodia 0-2 Singapore (Oct’ 05)
It has not been a good campaign for the Angkor Warriors, having lost four out of four – conceding 14 goals and not scoring any in the process. A 4-0 thrashing by Singapore in Phnom Penh set the tone for their poor run of form, subsequently falling 1-0 to Afghanistan, 3-0 to Japan and 6-0 to Syria.
Lee Tae-Hoon’s boys did get the winning feeling back last week at least as they overcame reigning C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown 3-2 in a friendly at the RSN Stadium. Chan Vathanaka, Keo Sokpheng and Thierry Chantha Bin scored the goals, which should give them some much-needed confidence going into this tough game.
Qualification definitely looks out of the equation for the visitors, but they will fancy their chances of getting at least a point if the home side continues its sluggish ways from the Afghanistan match.
It should be a vastly reshuffled Singapore line-up this time around, with lynchpins Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin coming back from suspension.
The duo will slot straight back into the starting 11, with Hariss looking to rekindle the solid partnership between himself and Izzdin Shafiq in the middle of the park, while Safuwan is likely to reclaim the roving No.10 role behind Khairul Amri.
Left-footers Shaiful Esah and Hafiz Sujad are major doubts for this game. Thus expect Shakir Hamzah to join a backline consisting of Baihakki Khaizan, Madhu Mohana and Nazrul Nazari, which has conceded just one goal in four qualifying games. Meanwhile Faris Ramli will be favoured to fill Hafiz’s void on the left flank, after impressing as a second-half substitute against Afghanistan, delivering the all-important corner for Amri to nod home the winner.
Sahil Suhaimi is also expected to come in for Fazrul Nawaz on the right flank as coach Bernd Stange looks to go on the offensive.
Meanwhile Cambodia will field a very different side compared to the one that suffered that 4-0 drubbing back in June, with a number of key players back for selection after missing that game due to their involvement in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
The list includes the impressive attacking duo of Prak Mony Udom and Chan Vathanaka, with the latter topping the C-League scoring charts with an impressive tally of 30 goals in 20 games so far. Meanwhile fellow attackers like Khoun Laboravy and Keo Sokpheng have also been in good scoring form, with 16 and 11 domestic goals respectively to their names.
The relatively young Angkor Warriors, with only six players in the 23-strong squad over the age of 23, will take heart from the gutsy display when they took on Japan at the Saitama Stadium in early September.
While they were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline, they managed to put in an admirable performance in the first half where they limited the Samurai Blue to just one goal.
Player to Watch: Safuwan Baharudin
Who else but him?
Safuwan has been the talk of the town for his impressive goalscoring exploits this season as he netted a total of 13 times – nine for the LionsXII, two while on loan at A-League side Melbourne City and a brace during the 4-0 routing of Cambodia in June.
Four of those came in the last three club matches and he will definitely be champing at the bit to add to his tally after missing out on the victory against Afghanistan due to suspension.
The 24-year-old’s aerial presence should earn some handy knock-downs for Amri to flourish upfront.
While Stange has stressed the need to get the three points, his Cambodian counterpart Lee Tae-Hoon admitted he will be setting up his side to go for a draw.
“Singapore players have higher abilities than us,” he said during the pre-match press conference. “I know the No.19 (Amri) is very good and I worry about their tall players during set pieces. The condition of my players are not so good now so we have to play defensive and we hope to get a point.”
Facts and Figures
- The sides are separated by 29 places in the FIFA rankings – Singapore are ranked 157th, while Cambodia are ranked 186th.
- Singapore have the upper hand in terms of the head-to-head records between the teams. Both sides have faced each other 15 times in history – with the Lions winning 12, drawing two and losing just once.
- Faris Ramli’s first international goal came against Cambodia in a 4-2 friendly win last November before the AFF Suzuki Cup.
FFT.com Editor Zee Ko: Singapore to win 4-0. The Lions need goals now if they are to pip Syria to an Asian Cup berth. This could be their best chance yet to put a couple in the net.
Kenneth Tan: Singapore to pick up a 3-1 victory. A straightforward win for the Lions although I fancy the Cambodians sneaking in a goal to spoil the party.
FFT.com Managing Editor James Dampney: 3-0 Singapore. It could be a stalemate at half-time to make the natives a little restless, but the goals will start to flow after the break as the visitors run out of legs.
Shanjayan Muniappan: 4-0 to Singapore. Having won in the away encounter, the Lions shouldn't have trouble repeating the feat again at home.
Sunny Mahtani: 3-0 to Singapore. The return of Safuwan and Hariss will give the Lions a timely boost, while Cambodia's defence will struggle to contain the rampaging Amri.
Amanda Cheok: A surprise 1-1 draw. The pressure to avoid a repeat of last week's showing could be too overwhelming for the Lions.
Yahoo Sports’ Teng Kiat: 3-0 to Singapore. Lions to step up their game and seal a comfortable win.
Tickets to all of Singapore's huge upcoming World Cup qualifiers, including the clashes with Cambodia, Japan and Syria, are now on sale. Get yours from Sports Hub Tix, by calling the hotline at +65 6333 5000/+65 3158 7888, by visiting the Singapore Indoor Stadium box office or dropping into any SingPost outlet islandwide.
Main photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo