A lot for Singapore to improve on, says captain Hariss

Singapore captain Hariss Harun has acknowledged the massive improvement the Lions have to make in order to match up to top Asian nations.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange had ambitiously aimed for “six points” against Japan and Syria after his side claimed successive victories against Afghanistan and Cambodia in October.

The Lions huffed and puffed, but eventually ended up with nothing after the two games against Group E’s frontrunners.

A 3-0 defeat to the energetic Samurai Blue last Thursday seemed to have sapped all their energy with Hariss and company failing to lift their game against Syria on Tuesday night.

A last-gasp goal by Omar Khribin proved to be the difference between the sides but the stark reality remains that Safuwan Baharudin’s equalising penalty was the only shot on target Singapore recorded over 180 minutes.

Speaking to assembled media at the mixed zone after the game, captain Hariss cut a desolate figure as he reflected on what could have been.

“The difference was just one minute,” the Johor Darul Ta’zim midfielder lamented.

“If we had held on, we would have sealed qualification for third place. The Japan game took a lot from us because we were defending for the entire game.

“Plus it’s not easy to play with 10 men (after Madhu Mohana’s red card in the 55th minute) but we threw everything we had.

“I thought we matched them, except that they were winning the battles in the first half. In the end it wasn’t enough for us and it’s now back to the drawing board.

“The defeat’s very tough to take, but we have to learn from these kind of things and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The last few international games have shown that Singapore are a few notches below the top Asian nations.

Japan and Syria were simply more comfortable on the ball and quicker to react to 50-50 situations.

While disappointed with the results, Hariss is keen to take in all the lessons learnt as he believes the Lions can only improve by playing such quality opposition.

“Definitely we have a lot to improve on,” the 24-year-old admitted.

“We have to not only keep playing with these top teams, but also train hard and learn from them.

“Even if you’re a senior player, there’re always areas which you can still improve on. With every game we play, we will improve as individuals and as a team.”

This was Singapore’s last competitive game of 2015 and Hariss is pleased with the progress which they have made since a disastrous AFF Suzuki Cup campaign last year.

The Lions have picked up some credible results during these World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers, including a 4-0 thrashing of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and the stunning 0-0 draw against Japan in Saitama.

“As compared to the past year, the team is getting better,” Hariss said.

“With a good mix of senior and young players, it takes time for us to gel and come into the system. My job is to help the younger players settle in and play as a team.

“We’re always striving to play better football and we definitely have to improve on that aspect. It’s not easy, but hopefully we’ll see the progress soon.”