David vs Goliath as the Lions face a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on some of the best in world football.
Many football fans around the world have revered Lionel Messi to be the greatest footballer of all time.
SINGAPORE RECENT FORM
- Singapore 1-2 Taiwan (ACQ)
- Singapore 1 – 1 Myanmar (Friendly)
- Bahrain 0 – 0 Singapore (ACQ)
- Afghanistan 2 – 1 Singapore (Friendly)
- Singapore 1 – 2 Indonesia (AFC)
Some, might even call him a magician due to his ability to bamboozle defenders and leave them on their behind.
In a particular Singapore, the fans around this region will be wishing for the little magician to somehow mysteriously turn up at the National Stadium when the Lions take on Argentina.
Travelling with his already star-studded team to Singapore, the Barcelona star left hours after in preparation for his wedding as his admirers in Singapore were left disappointed.
However, with or without Messi, the show will go on. Even without him, the La Albiceleste are packed with plenty of superstars in the form of Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Angel di Maria (PSG) and Mauro Icardi (Inter).
Argentina's been hard at training since arriving (Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT)
Coming into this game, Argentina edged Brazil 1-0 at Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground with new coach Jorge Sampaoli at the helm, courtesy of Gabriel Mercado’s tap in at the stroke of half time.
As for Singapore, they were defeated 2-1 by Taiwan in what was a crucial match. The match that took place at Jalan Besar was a frustrating affair for the Lions who saw close to little of the ball with Taiwan showing superiority in maintaining possession.
ARGENTINA RECENT FORM
- Brazil 0-1 Argentina (Friendly)
- Bolivia 2-0 Argentina (WQS)
- Argentina 1-0 Chile (WQS)
- Argentina 3-0 Colombia (WQS)
- Brazil 3-0 Argentina (WQS)
The away side made a comeback after Hariss Harun’s early opener through goals from Tsan-Yuan Chen and Chen Chao-An.
At home, winning was extremely crucial if they were to have any real chance in qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup, having already secured a vital point against Bahrain. But the Lions could not take advantage of the opportunity against Taiwan, a team three FIFA rankings below them (160).
Like Messi, Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) will also be getting married and will not feature in this game. Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus) has also left the squad.
As for Singapore, Khairul Amri is out due to injury.
KEY BATTLE: IRFAN FANDI VS PAULO DYBALA
In many of the games that he has featured so far for Home United, Irfan has excelled and shined. Against Argentina on the other hand, it will be a completely different ball game.
The son of Singapore’s great Fandi Ahmad spent his younger years in Chile developing his game and that aspect shows in his game. His ability to read the game is apparent and that mixed with his physique, he makes a brute force in defence.
This could be Irfan's biggest test till date
On Tuesday, he will come up against a player touted to take over Lionel Messi’s throne in a couple of years’ time. Dybala is an exceptional dribbler, makes well-timed runs and a competent finisher – all the necessary ingredients to provide Irfan his most difficult task in his young career. The game will be heavily focused on Singapore defending for most parts as Argentina dominate, therefore, much of the focus will be on Irfan and his defensive duties.
In his first game in charge, Jorge Sampaoli made a statement of intent with what sort of football the Argentine fans can expect during his regime – all-out ruthless attack. Of the ten outfield players, there were three defenders, one recognisable midfielder (Lucas Biglia of Lazio) and six attackers.
Sampaoli epitomises the South American football mentality very well. Therefore, the excitement amongst their fans is understandable as they would naturally want their team to utilize the plethora of attacking talents that they have in their disposal.
With Chile, Sampaoli won the Copa America in 2015 and the Argentina fans will be expecting for similar glory as they have not won a major trophy for the longest time.
Sundram has his work cut out on Tuesday night
V.Sundramoorthy on the other hand, will be wondering how his Lions blew a chance to pick up three points against Taiwan. Some of his stars who have been flourishing for their clubs this season, failed to step up against the away side.
But given the magnitude of the game and how it will take place at the National Stadium in front of a decent crowd, the Dazzler should be expecting his Lions to make most of the once in a lifetime moment.
‘The ball is round’ and ‘anything can happen in football’ are all well-known clichés in the footballing world but a win for Singapore is highly unlikely although that might just be the biggest upset of recent times if V.Sundramoorthy’s men manage to pull off a miracle.
FACTS AND FIGURES
In terms of FIFA World Rankings, Argentina are second
Singapore are 155 ranks below at 157
Argentina have won the World Cup twice and Copa America 14 times
Sampaoli started six attackers against Brazil but a defender won him the game
Sergio Aguero was not selected to be a part of this Argentina squad
4-0 Argentina. Fans will be treated to some pure attacking football at the National Stadium.
Photos: FAS unless stated