Singapore vs Japan: Samurai Blue set the record straight
FourFourTwo arrived at the Singapore Sports Hub just over two hours before kick-off and there were already a steady supply of supporters from both teams milling about.
The build-up to this game had been almost unprecedented, dating back to that famous night in June when the Lions battled their way to a 0-0 draw against these perennial World Cup attendees.
While Singapore fans aren’t always in a hurry to attend games – less than 6,000 turning up for the October 8 win over Afghanistan and just 6,650 for Cambodia five days later – the assumption was Japan’s bevy of stars would surely draw a crowd.
While well short of the sell-out predicted in some circles, the end result of 33,868 fans in attendance was satisfactory.
There had been some cheeky mutterings before the game that the unfailingly loyal support Japan enjoys might result in their numbers dwarfing those of the home fans.
There was indeed a more-than-healthy smattering of blue, but the home crowd was undoubtedly making the most noise as the night got underway, carrying that unmistakable atmosphere only big games can generate.
FFT made sure to arrive early to secure prime seats in the pitchside media tribune, a wise move as the press area was heaving prior to the opening whistle.
A significant portion of that was taken up by the visiting Japanese media, whose editors would have ensured their scribes made the flight south-west to see if their troops could set the record straight.
One of those was Kenichiro Kita, a journalist from Japanese website soccermagazine-zone.com.
FFT asked Kita for his thoughts on that game in Saitama, which he attended, and on Thursday night’s re-match.
“Singapore made it a very difficult game for Japan in Saitama,” he said. “They were very defensive and had high concentration on defence.
“Singapore’s game shocked (Japan coach Vahid) Halilhodzic, so I expect him to change his style tonight. They will be doing short passes and try to maintain possession.”
Asked for a prediction, Kita replied: “I think it will be 3-0. Hopefully it will 4-0 or 5-0.”
It was a sentiment seemingly held by the majority of the visiting media.