Singapore vs Hong Kong: Lions gear up for crucial Turkmenistan test
SINGAPORE RECENT FORM
- Singapore 0-6 Argentina (Friendly)
- Singapore 1-2 Taiwan (ACQ)
- Singapore 1-1 Myanmar (Friendly)
- Bahrain 0-0 Singapore (ACQ)
- Afghanistan 2-1 Singapore (Friendly)
A chance for the Lions to overcome a team they have struggled against in recent times.
In football, there is the saying ‘you’re only as good as your last game’.
Back in March, it was all looking so rosy for Singapore after they achieved a gritty 0-0 draw away against Bahrain to start off their 2019 Asian Cup third and final qualifying round on a high note.
However, they followed it up with a dismal 2-1 home defeat to Taiwan in June that left them bottom of Group E with one point from two matches.
HONG KONG RECENT FORM
- Hong Kong 1-1 North Korea (ACQ)
- Hong Kong 0-0 Jordan (Friendly)
- Lebanon 2-0 Hong Kong (ACQ)
- Jordan 4-0 Hong Kong (Friendly)
- Hong Kong 1-1 Guangdong (Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup)
Three days after that game, they faced up to Argentina in a glamour but ultimately meaningless friendly and fell to a 6-0 drubbing.
That led to massive criticism from fans and the Lions will need to get their Asian Cup qualifying campaign back on track when they host Turkmenistan on September 5.
As per the norm, there is an international ‘A’ friendly arranged before the actual test – with Hong Kong providing the test this time.
The East Asians are using this game as preparation for their Asian Cup qualifying campaign as well, as they make their way across the Causeway to face Malaysia, also on September 5.
They are third in Group B with one point from two outings – losing 2-0 away against Lebanon and holding North Korea to a 1-1 draw.
Singapore are boosted by the return of several attacking options.
PAST 5 MEETINGS
- Hong Kong 2-0 Singapore (Friendly, Oct ’16)
- Hong Kong 2-1 Singapore (Friendly, Oct ’14)
- Singapore 0-0 Hong Kong (Friendly, Sep ’14)
- Hong Kong 1-0 Singapore (Friendly, Sep’ 13)
- Singapore 2-0 Hong Kong (Friendly, Aug ’12)
Centurion Khairul Amri has recovered from the appendicitis that saw him miss the games against Taiwan and Argentina, while Fazrul Nawaz – who missed 10 months of action due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury – got his first call-up since last July.
Shawal Anuar is also back after missing June’s games due to a head injury.
As for Hong Kong, they will sport a distinctly different look from the all-local line-up in their last defeat to Singapore five years ago.
As many as 10 out of their 23-man squad are naturalised players who hail from countries like England, Brazil and Cameroon.
Experienced striker Chan Siu Ki, who has 36 goals in 65 caps, is one of the remaining few who played in that 2-0 defeat in Jurong West.
Key Battle: Daniel Bennett vs Alex Akande
For Singapore to stand any chance of winning, they will need to shut out the livewire Akande.
In the 2-0 loss in Mong Kok last October, the 28-year-old Nigerian-born forward was a thorn in the Lions’ side, scoring the opening goal that night.
Eleven years his senior, English-born centre-back Bennett misread a long ball in that particular situation and will be keen to atone for that mistake on Thursday night.
It will be a battle of wits between two under-fire coaches.
Singapore’s V. Sundramoorthy, who got a two-year contract extension in March, has received plenty of flak for his perceived negative tactics and a poor record of just two wins, four draws and 10 defeats since taking over in May 2016.
The Lions last tasted victory by beating Cambodia 1-0 last November.
Hong Kong counterpart Kim Pan-gon, who has been in charge since 2012, is defiant that he is staying until the completion of the Asian Cup qualifiers next March despite calls from the fans for his resignation.
Just like Singapore, the East Asians’ last victory came in November 2016 when they beat Taiwan 4-2.
Facts and Figures
- These sides have met six times in friendly matches since 2012. Singapore’s only win in this period came in August 2012, where an Aleksandar Duric double ensured that 2-0 triumph at Jurong West Stadium.
- They last faced off at Mong Kok Stadium last October, with the Lions falling to a 2-0 defeat.
- Singapore are now at their all-time lowest FIFA ranking at 171st, 25 places below Hong Kong.
- Singapore have recorded just eight goals in 16 official outings under coach Sundram.
It has been pretty tough taking on Hong Kong in recent times, but we fancy Singapore to hold them to a 1-1 draw.
Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo