REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Singapore’s under-22 football team coach Richard Tardy has called Wednesday’s match against Malaysia a “need to win” one in order for Singapore to stave off early elimination from the SEA Games.
The Young Lions suffered a 2-0 defeat to Myanmar in the opening Group A game on Monday, while Malaysia secured a narrow victory over Brunei.
Only the top two teams from the group can advance to the semi-finals, and a loss to Malaysia on Wednesday (16 Aug) at Shah Alam Stadium will more or less seal Singapore’s fate in this competition – a fact that Tardy is mindful of.
While the Frenchman has spoken repeatedly about how the Singapore team is a young and inexperienced one – only two were part of the previous SEA Games squad – Tardy also said that he is looking for a “good result” against their causeway rivals. A loss would mean Singapore would be “90 per cent” eliminated.
“We need to win (tomorrow). We are looking to play better to have a good result,” Tardy told the media after Singapore’s training session on Inspen Bangi stadium on Tuesday.
“As I said before the Myanmar game, a win or draw will be a very good result, and it’s the same tomorrow. We know the win is more important, and it will be better for us.”
Tardy also said that he was aware of the negative online chatter about the team that surfaced after their loss to Myanmar, and has addressed the issue with the players – by asking them to use the flak as a motivation.
“The pressure must stay on me, not the players. This is what I want. The problem now is with social media, it’s not good to read sometimes… Talking doesn’t change anything,” said Tardy.
“I try to protect the players. For players, their job is to learn from this and if they want to grow to a high level, they must be ready to show what they can do. When it is bad news, you must take the bigger motivation to want to prove you are not so bad.”
Change of tactics against Malaysia?
Tardy’s tactics against Myanmar were scrutinised following the first defeat. Media reports questioned the tactical and personnel changes he made, while fans online called the team too defensive.
In Tuesday’s training, Tardy tried two different formations and swapped a number of players. He was also observed to be in deep discussions with assistant Vincent Subramaniam, who coaches the Garena Young Lions in the S.League.
While Tardy refused to reveal anything to the media, he did offer that he would set his team up to play like how they did against Myanmar in the second half – where the team caused several problems for their opponents.
“We must keep what was good (against Myanmar). We had more possession, we threatened the Myanmar goal more, but in football, you need to score if you win. The aim is to perform again like we did in the second half,” Tardy explained, suggesting that he will set the Singapore team up to attack right from the start against Malaysia.
“Some players who didn’t start that game will start tomorrow, because we need to put fresh legs,” he said.
One of those might be Hanafi Akbar, the mercurial forward widely regarded as one of the more talented players in the team. A surprise omission from the team in the first game, Hanafi was seen training with the first team on Tuesday.
However, Hanafi said that he is not fussed over whether he is selected, and will be ready when called upon.
“We must show more fighting spirit like we did in the second half against Myanmar. The boys showed what they are capable of and all the chances we missed were quite close – it’s just by a little bit,” he said.
“If we finish the chances, we will do great. We were just out of luck in the last game, so I think there’s no pressure on us,” Hanafi said.