SINGAPORE — Faced with their strongest rivals so far in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, Singapore's national football team are faced with a tactical dilemma ahead of their Group B clash with title favourites Vietnam at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday (30 December).
To attack, or not to attack?
Head coach Takayuki Nishigaya is adamant that the Lions will not be defensive. "We are playing at home, so we have to be aggressive and go for goals in front of our supporters," he said during the pre-match media conference on Thursday.
Yet, Vietnam - champions in the 2018 edition - have looked formidable and a notch above the rest of the teams in Group B so far, as they followed up their 6-0 opening romp against Laos with a hard-fought 3-0 win over Malaysia on Tuesday.
In contrast, Singapore looked shaky even as they also won their opening two matches. In their 3-2 opening home win against Myanmar, their defence struggled to repel their opponents. In their 2-0 victory over Laos in Vientiane on Tuesday, however, it was their attack that looked laboured and disjointed.
Furthermore, getting a draw and a point against Vietnam will be valuable for the Lions, as they will climb above arch-rivals Malaysia ahead of their final group clash next Tuesday. A draw in Kuala Lumpur will then be enough for the Lions to advance into the semi-finals ahead of Malaysia.
Nishigaya, however, will not be drawn into looking ahead at the Malaysia tie, insisting as he had done throughout the tournament that the Lions will take one game at a time, and he is fully focused on the Vietnam tie.
Irfan Fandi confident Lions will show up for big game
Likewise, defender Irfan Fandi - who netted the opening goal against Laos - sounded a defiant tone as he urged his teammates to step up and be counted in this crunch tie.
"The ball is round, anything can happen. We have to 100 per cent focused on giving 110 per cent tomorrow, and I believe that our team always show up for big games like this," he said at the media conference.
"It will not be easy, especially since we lost key players (Ikhsan Fandi and Adam Swandi) through injuries. But when the whistle goes, we will be ready for Vietnam and try to get a good result."
Meanwhile, Vietnam's Korean coach Park Hang-seo also insisted that his side will not take any game lightly, or be distracted by that fact that he is leaving the team following the completion of the tournament.
"Since I took on the national coaching job in 2018, my players and I have always given our best effort in every match, and that will not change even though I am stepping down," he said during the media conference.
"Both teams have little time to recover from their previous matches, but we will try to prepare to the best of our abilities and I look forward to both sides having a good match tomorrow."
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