Taiwan vs Singapore: Buoyant Lions eyeing second straight win

2019 Asian Cup Qualifer| Taipei Municipal Stadium| Tues 27 Mar | 7pm

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A dead rubber, with both teams out of contention to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.

The lowdown

Singapore’s third-round qualification campaign for the 2019 Asian Cup started promisingly as they held Bahrain to a 0-0 away draw almost a year ago.

However it proved to be a false dawn as they attained just one point from their next four matches – with their qualification hopes going up in smoke even before they played their last group E game.

A switch from their usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a roving 3-4-3 one brought forth improved performances but yielded little tangible results as they ended 2017 without a single win.

Singapore Recent Form

Singapore 3-2 Maldives (Friendly)

Singapore 0-3 Bahrain (ACQ)

Singapore 0-1 Lebanon (Friendly)

Turkmenistan 2-1 Singapore (ACQ)

Qatar 3-1 Singapore (Friendly)

Nonetheless Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy stuck to the tactical plan in their first match of 2018. That worked out well as the Lions broke their 13-game winless streak and scored more than once for the first time under his reign in a morale-boosting 3-2 win over Maldives (ranked 21 places above them at 148th) last Thursday.

That sets up them nicely as they face Taiwan away in their final Group E game. While the game may be a a dead rubber, Singapore are still expected to take the game seriously with the biennial Suzuki Cup coming up this November.

The same goes for hosts Taiwan as they look to break into the top 100 in the FIFA world rankings (they are currently ranked 134th). Gone are the days when the East Asian nation were viewed as the whipping boys of the region.

They notched up a couple of eye-catching results in 2017 – firstly coming from a goal down to defeat Singapore 2-1 away in June, before scoring two last-gasp goals to sink Bahrain 2-1 at home four months later.

In addition, they also won the inaugural 2017 CTFA (Chinese Taipei Football Association) Invitational Tournament – beating Philippines 3-0, Timor-Leste 3-1 and Laos 2-0 along the way.

Gary White’s side are guaranteed a third-placed finish in the group as they have six points as compared to Singapore’s two – which is not too bad an achievement.

Taiwan warmed up for this game with a 2-1 victory over 2017 Taiwan Football Premier League second runners-up Hang Yuen last Thursday.

Shakir is a man on form

Team News

Singapore are likely to stick to a winning formula so fans can expect largely the same starting lineup as the one against Maldives, which featured six overseas-based players.

Thus Nazrul Nazari and Shakir Hamzah should start as wing-backs again, ahead of a back three of Irfan Fandi, Baihakki Khaizan and Zulfahmi Arifin.

It remains to be seen though if Sundram will stick to deploying Yasir Hanapi upfront, or bring back either Khairul Amri or Safuwan Baharudin into the fore.

Taiwan Recent Form

Taiwan 2-0 Laos (Friendly)

Taiwan 3-1 Timor Leste (Friendly)

Taiwan 3-0 Philippines (Friendly)

Turkmenistan 2-1 Taiwan (ACQ)

-Taiwan 2-1 Bahrain (ACQ)

Taiwan also do have their fair share of overseas-based players, with five now plying their trade in China – four of those are in the second-tier League One.  

Team captain Chen Po-liang also wears the armband for Hangzhou Greentown, while fellow midfielders Wen Chih-hao and Chen Hao-wei are both at Beijing Enterprises.

Meanwhile Spanish-born defender Yaki Yen is enjoying a great start to life at Qinghao Huanghai, having scored in each of their opening two games so far.

The odd one out is forward Chen Chao-an, who plays for League Two side Hunan Billows. The 25-year-old famously scored the winner against Singapore last June.

In addition, they also have the services of England-born attacking midfielder Will Donkin. The Crystal Palace youth player already has four caps at the age of 17. 

Hariss (left) will be the man to watch for the Lions

Key Battle: Chen Po-liang vs Hariss Harun

The blockbuster battle in the middle of the park between the two captains will likely prove to be the difference in this game.

Taiwan’s Chen has a wealth of experience, having played in China since 2012 and have scored 24 goals in 69 international appearances.

Meanwhile Singapore’s Hariss has been on the books of Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim since 2014 and have six goals in 83 caps.

Sundram had reasons to smile after the Lions' win over Maldives

The Coaches

Singapore’s V Sundramoorthy has endured a torrid time since taking over in May 2016, with just three wins in 22 outings – all coming in friendlies.

The 3-2 win against Maldives has done a little to ease the pressure, so the next task for the former national forward ought to be notching up that maiden competitive win.

Past Meetings

Singapore 1-2 Taiwan (ACQ, Jun ’17)

Singapore 3-2 Taiwan (Friendly, Jul ’11)

In contrast, Taiwan’s Gary White is enjoying himself since being appointed in September 2017, with five wins in six matches so far.

The highly-rated Englishman will be eyeing another chance to silence the Lions, having led unfancied Guam to a 2-2 draw in Singapore in March 2015.

Facts and Figures

  • Singapore have scored 14, kept five clean sheets and conceded 38 in 22 matches under Sundram.

  • Singapore have not won away since edging Myanmar 1-0 in Sundram’s first game in June 2016 – the streak stands at 12 games, including the three 2016 Suzuki Cup group games.

  • Singapore last won two straight games in October 2015, with 1-0 and 2-1 wins over Afghanistan and Cambodia respectively.

  • Singapore’s Shakir Hamzah has two goals in his last two international appearances.

  • Taiwan have won their last five home games.

FourFourTwo prediction

Singapore have renewed confidence after beating Maldives last week, so we fancy them getting a 1-1 draw in this tricky away game.

Photos: FAS