Singapore vs Thailand: Can the Lions withstand Southeast Asia’s best?
A game against the champions-elect.
Singapore 1-0 Cambodia (Friendly)
Syria 2-0 Singapore (Friendly)
Hong Kong 2-0 Singapore (Friendly)
Singapore 0-0 Malaysia (Friendly)
Bahrain 3-1 Singapore (Friendly)
Thailand 4-2 Indonesia (Suzuki Cup)
Thailand 2-2 Australia (World Cup Qualifier)
Iraq 4-0 Thailand (World Cup Qualifier)
UAE 3-1 Thailand (World Cup Qualifier)
Thailand 0-2 Japan (World Cup Qualifier)
In the last edition of the Suzuki Cup two years ago, Singapore managed to match Thailand for most of the game but still lost out to a late Charyl Chappuis.
It finished 2-1 in the Thais’ favour, but few are predicting it to be as close this time around, as Singapore’s struggles on the international scene in recent years have been well-documented.
Thailand were not at their best against Indonesia in the AFF Suzuki Cup curtain-raiser, but they still managed to plunder four goals and earn a 4-2 victory.
Leading their charge will be Teerasil Dangda, who is on fire at the moment. He has scored five goals in his last two games for Thailand, with a brace coming against Australia in a World Cup qualifier just prior to heading to Philippines.
The Lions have entered this tournament with a very defensive mindset and it will not be surprising if another clean sheet and a point will be seen as an achievement.
However, it remains to be seen if they have the legs to do so against the War Elephants, after putting their bodies on the line for nearly an hour with 10-man against the Azkals.
Singapore will miss Hafiz Sujad for the remainder of the group stages after his red card against Philippines and V. Sundramoorthy needs to decide whether to field Faris Ramli in the left wing position.
The winger was surprisingly on the bench against Philippines, although he injected pace and ideas when sent on.
Faritz Hameed and Juma’at Jantan suffered knocks against the Azkals and had to come off, making their involvement in this game a huge doubt.
Baihakki Khaizan did not start in the last game either after Sundram said he was still unfit due to illness, but with Madhu Mohana expected to take his place at right-back, Bai should be in line for a return in central defence.
For Thailand, Tristan Do was forced off the pitch due to injury and Koravit Namwiset was his replacement. The latter should start in his place if Do has not recovered.
Captain Theerathon Bunmanthan was a surprising exclusion and Peerapat Notchaiya instead took to the field.
The forward did do well but one suspects Thailand coach Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang will look to rotate his squad and keep it fresh for the game against Philippines two days later.
Key Battle: Hassan Sunny vs Teerasil Dangda
Teerasil needs no introduction after his exploits for Thailand and the onus to stop him of course will fall squarely upon Singapore’s defenders.
It will take a collective effort to stop Teerasil though, as the striker is capable of finding spaces and getting shots away in the most difficult moments.
In such situations, only Hassan is left to deny Teerasil. After a superb performance against Philippines, nobody will doubt the goalkeeper’s ability to earn points for the Lions.
After playing in Thailand for two seasons, Hassan is familiar with the free-scoring international and is excited to try and stop him in his tracks.
Sundram’s game plan against Philippines was thrown into disarray after Hafiz’s sending-off, but if many felt he was too defensive then — Juma’at, a defender by trade, was played in right midfield — they should be prepared for an even tighter game.
‘The Dazzler’ will also be pondering whether to rotate his squad, as the encounter with Philippines was nothing short of exhausting.
Zico started with a three-man defence against Indonesia, but it was plain for all to see that they struggled to contain the pacey wingers such as Andik Vermansyah, which could force a re-think against Singapore.
Last Five Meetings
Thailand 2-0 Singapore (Friendly, Mar ’15)
Singapore 1-2 Thailand (Suzuki Cup, Nov ‘14)
Thailand 1-0 Singapore (Suzuki Cup, Dec ‘12)
Singapore 3-1 Thailand (Suzuki Cup, Dec ‘12)
Thailand 0-0 Singapore (Friendly, Aug ‘11)
Facts and Figures
Singapore have faced Thailand seven times in the Suzuki Cup and are on the positive side of the ledger, winning three encounters, with two ending in stalemates.
Teerasil has scored 12 Suzuki Cup goals in total, five away from the tournament’s overall top goalscorer, Singapore’s Noh Alam Shah.
Singapore and Thailand both are joint record title-holders with four Cups each.
After that bruising encounter against Philippines, Singapore might not have enough legs to hold off the Thais. The War Elephants should have too much class and a 2-0 win is not out of reach.
*It was originally slated in the first published version of this article that Shahdan Sulaiman was injured in the game against Thailand in 2012 but that is incorrect.