Singapore youngsters face uphill battle for U-16 qualification
Despite holding home-ground advantage, the Cubs go into the qualifiers as rank underdogs against AFF (Asean Football Federation) champions Thailand and defending AFC (Asian Football Confederation) champions North Korea.
The fourth and final team in Group H is fellow Southeast Asian side Cambodia, who played out a goalless draw with Singapore at the AFF U-16 Youth Championship tournament in August this year.
Singapore coach V Selvaraj is under no illusions as to the task that the Cubs face this week.
"The boys are looking forward to this tournament, even though we are playing two of the best teams in Asia," he said on Monday. "The Thais and the North Koreans will definitely be at a higher level [than us].
"It's a tough group and although surviving it is a big challenge for us, it is also a big opportunity for these boys.
"They should be taking this challenge positively and looking forward to these clashes, which will make a big impact on their lives as footballers."
The Singapore under-15s most recent hit-out was at the Lion City Cup last month, when they lost 0-3 to Tottenham's under-15s (pictured above) and 3-2 to the Singapore under-16s.
Selvaraj will be hoping for an improved showing this week, starting against Thailand at Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday evening.
"The Thais are technically better, the North Koreans are stronger physically and the Cambodians have quality players in their ranks," he said. "The most important thing for us is to compete and the boys know this after the AFF tournament and the Lion City Cup.
"There were areas where we needed to focus on, we spoke about it and went back to training to address all this. We have individual players and we have team players, but we are trying to find a right balance.
"The [two previous tournaments] have shown us where we are at the moment and how much we can improve. But we have tried some things in training and it's time we showed it in this tournament."
Selvaraj is hoping that Singaporean football fans will be able to find time to come down to the stadium and support the Cubs, but cautions against expecting too much too soon.
"I would say our homeground advantage and the artificial pitch we're going to play on are advantages," he said. "I would only appeal to the crowd to be more patient with these boys.
"Being young boys, mistakes will happen. As long as they carry out what they have been doing in training sessions, the results will come.
"The most important message for them is eventually, after the game when they walk out, there should be no regrets."
2016 AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers
Wednesday September 2, 2015
5pm - North Korea vs Cambodia
8pm - Thailand vs Singapore
Friday September 4, 2015
5pm - Cambodia vs Thailand
8pm - Singapore vs North Korea
Sunday September 6, 2015
5pm - North Korea vs Thailand
8pm - Singapore vs Cambodia
Grandstand - $10
Concession - $5