Singapore Select XI set sights on Arsenal upset

Defender Madhu Mohana and striker Rodrigo Tosi are intent on not giving too much respect to English giants Arsenal when the two sides lock horns in the Barclays Asia Trophy (BAT) on Wednesday night. 

To some, it may be the game of a lifetime to take on a world-class side. But Singapore Select XI duo Madhu and Tosi is keen to avoid getting star-struck at the sight of the Gunners.

“We just have to take it as another game and not give them so much respect,” Madhu told FourFourTwo during the Premier Skills Community Festival event at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday evening.

“On the pitch it’s 11 against 11 and similar to the Arsenal players, we have two legs and two hands. So we have to just stick to our plan and do our best for the game.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Tosi.

“They may be top players who deserve respect, but on the pitch you cannot afford to do so,” Tosi said, one of four foreign players in the squad, alongside Kento Fukuda, Sirina Camara and Nicolas Velez.  

“You have to play to the best of your abilities and I hope our guys can do their tasks properly.”

Much of the Select squad’s confidence has been drawn from the Singapore national team’s heroic goalless draw against Japan in last month’s World Cup qualifier, where Madhu and Baihakki Khaizan formed a colossal partnership at the back to frustrate Shinji Kawaga and company.

“Honestly we didn’t expect to get a draw there but we did it in the end,” Madhu said. “We came out of that game as more confident individuals, with the thinking that we can get good results against big teams, even though we’re just Singapore.

“That goes for the same against Arsenal; we cannot always be looking down and we need to be positive in our approach to the game.”

Madhu, who has played for LionsXII in the Malaysia Super League for the past four years, believes a good performance could place some of the Singaporean players on the radar of the watching European scouts.

“It’s important for us to do well and put up a good show, considering that there’s so many people watching us,” he said.

“We already know Izwan (Mahbud) and Safuwan (Baharudin) might have the chance to go to the J-League, so now it’s the opportunity for the other players to show their qualities and maybe earn the chance to get overseas trials.”

Meanwhile Tosi is dreaming of finding the net against new Gunners custodian Petr Cech (pictured above in his Chelsea days), who could be handed his first start at the club by manager Arsene Wenger.

“It’ll be really nice if I can score,” said the 32-year-old, who played in the 2010-11 Europa League with Swiss outfit FC Lausanne-Sport.

“I’ll be even happier if it’s a goal that brings us to the final! Most of us watch the Premier League every week so we know all about the qualities which Cech and the rest of their team have. I’ll be trying my best to play and enjoy the game at the same time.”

The odds are heavily stacked against the Singapore Select XI though. Since the inception of the BAT in 2003, only one local team has triumphed against a Premier League side – the Thailand national team that beat Everton 5-3 on penalties after 1-1 draw in regulation time back in 2005.