Bok finds positives in U22 draw with Cambodia

Singapore U22 head coach Richard Bok was satisfied with his team's 2-2 draw against Cambodia U22 on Saturday evening, as it allowed him to make a final assessment of his squad before next week's Asian U23 Championship qualifiers in Laos.

He felt the draw was a fair result as he was able to try out several tactical ploys his side would be using against Laos, China and Mongolia.

“We needed this game to have a further look at the team,” the former Warriors coach said in his post-match press conference.

“In the first half we did pretty well and there was good movement, but in the last 10 minutes we dropped too deep and allowed Cambodia to come at us.

“We kept fighting even though we went down a goal in the second half, after an unfortunate ball to hand from Aarvin. Justice was done when Cambodia conceded a penalty through a handball late in the game.”

Bok admitted the team’s shakiness was down to the changes he made after the break, as well as Irfan Fandi’s enforced withdrawal through injury early in the second half.

“My first-choice backline virtually started today and we only conceded goals after Irfan came off injured,” he said.

“As we made the changes in the second half, our intensity went down, and so did our defending. The reserves were mainly tested to see whether they could be counted upon when the need arises in Laos.

“For a 17-year-old, Irfan has aggression, wins all the high balls and has a certain reading of the game. He provides physical presence at the back and also contributes offensively in set-plays.”

After facing several familiar faces from the Cambodia senior national team who defeated his side 3-0 in Phnom Penh earlier this month, Bok admitted his opponents were no longer regional whipping boys.

“During the Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy, I could see the smaller Southeast Asian nations like Cambodia, Laos and Timor Leste who were on par or even better than us,” he said.

“The football authorities there should be praised for making investment into the game, and we could see them being sounder in technical and tactical knowledge.

“Laos are similar to Cambodia, so for us to have this test gives us a good idea of what is to come in the opening match of the qualifiers.”