Singapore must not miss final opportunity, insists Aide

The coach called for courage from his Singapore Under-23 side as they gear up for their crucial final group match against their Indonesian counterparts on Thursday, with only one advancing to the semi-finals by the final whistle.

Plenty will be at stake when Singapore Under-23s and Indonesia Under-23s do battle in their final Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Group A match at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday.

With only one semi-final berth remaining, the hosts must defeat the Young Garudas if they are to book their meeting against Group B winners Thailand Under-23s at the National Stadium this Saturday.

The two teams are presently tied on six points each, four behind already-qualified Group A leaders Myanmar Under-23s, with the Young Lions sitting third and behind their opponents on an inferior goal difference after three matches.

Singapore head coach Aide Iskandar is under no illusions regarding the mammoth task ahead, as he prepares to lead his side with the aim of qualifying into the last four at the expense of their opponents.

“I have told the players that I had been through similar situations as a player and coach before, and that we must make the most of this opportunity,” he said.

“The stakes are very high but as with the other games, we will go for a win and our boys are ready for this.”

Aide’s men have been through various tactical and personnel rotations during the campaign, and the trainer remained coy about his starting XI but added that choosing the right one to deploy could make the difference between victory and defeat.

“Sometimes you don’t play well but you get the result; sometimes you play well but the result is not there,” he said.

“It’s always easy to say that we should go out there with two strikers, but we must find the right balance in the team. We must have the other players to complement one another.”

The Young Lions will go into battle without experienced left-back Shakir Hamzah, who is suspended after receiving his second yellow card of the campaign against Cambodia Under-23s on Monday.

Balestier Khalsa defender Ho Wai Loon is set to deputise in his first start of the tournament following his 36-minute cameo in the previous win over Cambodia.

With experience battling top Asian players in the AFC Cup already this year, Aide believes the exposure makes the 22-year-old ideal to contain Indonesia’s dangerous wingers.

“Wai Loon has played against good players and good teams in the AFC Cup,” he affirmed.

“He is never afraid of challenges, and I am glad to have him in the squad. I believe he can handle the pressure and do his job.”

Six Young Lions are each a yellow card away from missing out in the Thailand semi-final clash should they overcome the Indonesians, however.

Yet while Aide admitted that the yellow fever is a cause of concern, he will not ask his squad to curb their aggression with a view to avoiding suspensions in the semi-final.

“I have shown the players the video replay of the previous game and noted that some cautions could have been avoided,” said the ex-national defender.

“Having said that, I don’t want to take the aggression away from the players. I want them to be aggressive but fair in their challenges.”

Image credit: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo