Nothing to lose, everything to gain for Singapore at Asian Games
The Singapore U23 team so nearly missed this latest edition of the Asian Games, but after a successful appeal to the Singapore National Olympic Council, the flights to Incheon were booked.
The friendly games against lowly Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong have no exactly boosted confidence, as are the withdrawals of coach Bernd Stange and midfield star Hariss Harun.
The Lions will go into matches against Tajikistan, Oman and Palestine with little expectations or fanfare.
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
With not much to lose, and everything to gain, this could be a big tournament for a few individuals...
1) Aide Iskandar
The former Singapore captain will lead this young team into the Asian Games after an unfortunate illness to head coach Stange.
Aide led Singapore's SEA Games team to a bronze that could very well have been a gold last year (losing 1-0 to eventual champions Thailand in the semi finals), but this is his biggest tournament to date and a good showing would enhance his burgeoning coaching credentials.
Qualification for the knockout stages could be a bridge too far, but matching up well to higher ranked opposition in Tajikistan, Oman and Palestine could be seen as a positive in a difficult group.
2) Hassan Sunny
Hassan seems to have had the better of understudy Izwan Mahbud since Stange took over as National Coach, but this tournament could be a real chance for him to nail down that No. 1 spot ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
The 30-year-old is in his prime now, and has had an excellent season with Warriors FC in the S.League. The Warriors have had their fixtures rearranged to allow the goalkeeper to make this Asian Games squad and he will be determined to back it up between the sticks before returning to help his team push for the domestic title.
The fact that Hassan was called up as one of three overage players and given the captain's armband shows the faith that Stange and Aide have in him. It's up to Hassan to lead this young team and keep their opponents at bay come this Sunday.
3) Al Qaasimy Rahman
The right-back slot in the Singapore national team is up for grabs now, and it's anyone's guess who will take that spot come November.
Young Al Qaasimy has a chance to stake a claim this Asian Games, and has been helped by an unfortunate injury to LionsXII's Madhu Mohana.
The Courts Young Lions full back has impressed in the S.League this season and also gave local fans a glimpse of his ability when Juventus came to town.
Could he prove Jumaat Jantan's long-term successor? This could very well be the beginning of something special.
4) Khairul Nizam
Once seen as one of Singapore's brightest striker prospects, Nizam has had a very stop-start career to date with his numerous injury problems.
Now on the comeback trail yet again after knee surgery, the LionsXII striker was not risked against Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong despite making cameo appearances in the Malaysia Cup.
When not breaking down, the forward has pace and guile to bamboozle the sternest of defences and if he keeps fit this Asian Games campaign, could prove a very good option off the bench if Sahil Suhaimi fails to make any headway.
There's still a chance that Nizam might make Singapore's Suzuki Cup squad, and you can bet that he'll be eager to impress against high-class opposition in this Asian Games.
Singapore's Asian Games Fixtures (All games live on Okto, Starhub Channel 108)
14 September 2014 (Sunday), 1pm: Singapore vs Tajikistan
17 September 2014 (Wednesday), 7pm: Singapore vs Oman
21 September 2014 (Sunday), 4pm: Singapore vs Palestine
Main Image: Football Association of Singapore