Madhu confident Singapore can stun Syria
The Lions picked up two credible results away from home in June – thrashing Cambodia 4-0 and holding Asian powerhouse Japan to a 0-0 draw – to start off the joint World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers on a good note.
They are currently top of the five-team Group E, leading nearest challengers Syria by a solitary point as the two sides lock horns in Muscat, Oman on Thursday night.
Last week’s poor result in the friendly against Qatar may seem like a reality check ahead of this crunch game, but Madhu believes there are positives to take from that heavy defeat.
The Singaporeans kept the 2022 World Cup hosts at bay till Mohammed Musa’s opener in the 56th minute and they went on to concede another three goals in the following 24 minutes.
”It was good to play against a Middle Eastern team before we play Syria,” said the 24-year-old.
”We were playing against a much stronger opponent, but we did very well in the first half. Although we didn’t have much chances going forward, we managed to stick to the game plan.
”But once we conceded the first goal, we knew that it was tough to get back into the game. We were forced to open up and push forward which led to us letting in another three goals.”
Next up is a lethal Syria side which has scored 20 goals in its last eight games, the last one being a 6-0 thrashing of Afghanistan in their Group E opener. However a confident Madhu is unfazed by the task ahead.
”It’s going to be tough here, but I’ve absolute confidence in this team,” said the centre-back, who is set to earn his ninth international cap in this match.
”Previously we got good results against Cambodia and Japan, which really boosted our confidence. With both Izwan (Mahbud) and Hassan (Sunny) doing really well, it makes us even more confident knowing that we have two world class keepers behind us.
”We just have to try and stick to our game plan again, just like how we did successfully against Japan. To get a point will be great for us and getting all three points will definitely be a bonus.”
After missing out on last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup, Madhu has worked his way back into the squad and is now part of the first-choice defensive pairing with Baihakki Khaizan.
The duo played pivotal roles in stopping the likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki during the historic stalemate with Japan.
Madhu is grateful to receive guidance from ‘Bai’, who is the second most experienced player in the squad with 117 caps.
”It’s really good to have such an experienced leader playing alongside me,” he said.
”We’ve played together before in 2012 and 2013 with the LionsXII, so I guess we are quite used to each other’s playing style. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so it’s a pretty good partnership between us.”
Following the match against Syria, the Lions then host Afghanistan and Cambodia in October.
Photo: Football Association of Singapore