Kuantan (8 September, 2013): Faced with suspension of a key player and the return of goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari to Singapore, coach V. Sundramoorthy is faced with a difficult task of reshuffling his players in the wake of an expected strong challenge from Thailand in the 41st Merdeka Tournament at the Darul Makmur Stadium tomorrow night.
The Singaporeans, who lost three points against Malaysia following the 1-0 defeat on Saturday, go into a battle for survival without defender Muhammad Afiq Yunos who was red-carded for handling the ball.
While Afiq sits on the bench in the next match as team officials ponder for a suitable replacement, it is the absence of first-choice goalkeeper Syazwan who has to report for National Service which will be greatly felt by the Lions in this crucial match.
His replacement – third-choice goalkeeper Neezam Aziz, has not had much international exposure but played in friendly matches for short spells.
“We do have capable players to replace Afiq while Neezam should be ready to face Thailand if he is picked. He knows what is expected of him in this crucial match,” said Singapore assistant coach K. Balagumaran.
“As we all know Thailand is a good side but we are also looking at favourable ground conditions. The rain on Saturday disrupted our flow and we hope this situation does not occur again. We can put on an improved performance on a dry pitch,” he added.
As the Singaporeans chart their fortunes to qualify for the final, Thailand head coach Kairung Threejasang is ready to introduce his two vital players – midfielders Kasidech Wattawawong and Seksit Srisai to shackle Singapore.
Both players had recently returned from a six-month training stint with Athletico Madrid and are the ‘aces in the pack’. Seksit only saw 20 minutes of action in the 1-1 draw against Myanmar while Kasidech came in as a substitute for less than 10 minutes in the late stage of the match.
“I am very impressed with their level of improvement while in Athletico Madrid and they will definitely play against Singapore. Due to the wet pitch conditions, I did not play them throughout the match for fear of injuries,” added Kairung.
Thailand’s match strategy, said Kairung, will depend much on Singapore’s style of play in the first 10 minutes which would give him an insight of what to expect in the remaining 90 minutes of play.
“We will wait and see what they would do. The weather will also play an important role. Personally, I believe we can play a much better game on a dry pitch as we are not used to soggy conditions. This is something we have to look into and work around it,” said Kairung, who was impressed with his top striker Chayawat Srinawong who scored against Myanmar.
“Chayawat has blended well as a striker and is a playmaker. He knows when to create chances and got the team back on an attacking mode. His vision and style suits us well.”
Sept 9 (Monday): Thailand v Singapore (5.30pm); Malaysia v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 11 (Wednesday): Malaysia v Thailand (Stadium Darul Makmur, 8.45pm); Singapore v Myanmar (Stadium Temerloh, 8.45pm)
Sept 14 (Saturday): Third-fourth placing playoff (5.30pm); Final (8.45pm). Both matches will be played at Stadium Darul Makmur.
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