REPORTING FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
Come Sunday (20 Aug), the Singapore water polo team needs to beat Malaysia by at least two goals to clinch their 27th SEA Games gold medal.
In the round robin format, the gold medal will go to the team with the superior goal difference against third-placed host Malaysia. Indonesia has beaten them 4-3.
A mighty scare at the hands of Indonesia on Friday during the round robin stage on Friday reminded them what was at stake. Singapore drew 4-4 with Indonesia. A loss would have ended the long-running gold medal streak that has been unbroken for 52 years.
Head coach Dejan Milakovic told Yahoo News Singapore that the pressure to maintain the gold has always been present, but that he has already told the team to forget about what happened during the match with Indonesia and focus on what they need to do to beat Malaysia on Sunday at the National Aquatic Centre in Bukit Jalil.
“The key is just to stay calm. We have a lot of pressure on our backs, even after the first game. I cannot say it’s not normal. It’s normal because this team came here to win. A lot of people expect that to be easy. [But] everybody came here to cut ahead of Singapore… we just need to focus on our game,” said Milakovic.
The Serb emphasised on keeping calm after a scuffle broke out between Singapore’s Samuel Moses Yu and Indonesia’s Beby Willy Eka Paksi, which saw both players red carded during the match.
“The key for tomorrow is to focus on individual tasks that I gave to players… we played very well on defense, and to be more calmed down in attack – that is where we struggled a bit in the last two games,” said Milakovic.
Ultimately, Milakovic is confident his charges will prevail. “I would like to play also if I can,” he said smiling. “But definitely we just need to enjoy and focus on our game. I’m not scared, nobody’s scared, nobody’s even worried. We just need to go down and play.”
In a SEA Games profile video produced by Singtel to support Team Singapore at the SEA Games, team captain Loh Zhi Zhi talks about the pressure associated with the rich heritage of the sport.