Singapore coach Nishigaya issues challenge to Lions after naming provisional AFF C’ship squad
National football coach Takayuki Nishigaya has thrown down the gauntlet to the Lions after naming a provisional 29-man squad for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship on Thursday.
The Japanese tactician wants his players to “show what they can offer” before he decides on a final 23-man list for the Dec 20-Jan 16 tournament, where Singapore have been drawn in Group B with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The Lions will go on a training camp in Chiba, Japan, from Dec 1-12, during which they will play two training games.
This will be followed by a friendly against Maldives at Jalan Besar Stadium on Dec 17, a week before Singapore’s opening match against Myanmar which will likely be played at the same venue.
Nishigaya has made a few additions while largely sticking to the same squad which he called up for September’s friendlies in Ho Chi Minh City, where they lost 4-0 to Vietnam and drew 1-1 with India.
The Fandi brothers – Irfan, Ikhsan and Ilhan – are prominent names in the squad, while centre-back Shakir Hamzah returns to the national fold for the first time since suffering a tournament-ending knee injury at the 2021 AFF Championship, where the Lions reached the semi-finals under another Japanese coach, Tatsuma Yoshida.
Nishigaya said the training camp in Japan and Maldives friendly will be key to his team’s preparation as they will also face opponents with similar playing styles to South-east Asian sides.
The friendly against world No. 154 Maldives will also be Nishigaya’s first home game and seventh overall since he took charge in May. His record reads one win, one draw and four losses.
World No. 160 Singapore’s last home match was a 2-0 win over the Philippines in the FAS Tri-Nations Series at the National Stadium in March, under interim coach Nazri Nasir.
Nishigaya said: “I have called up these players for the provisional squad based on their performances at club level as well as the positional needs of the team, with certain players able to play in multiple positions where required – which I believe is necessary for our style of play.
“During this period, I want the players to show what they can offer to the team. The (AFF Championship) holds special significance in Singapore football, and I want to see desire and determination from the players because we need to stick together and play as one for the country.”
After the Christmas Eve opener against Myanmar, the Lions will face Laos (away, Dec 27), Vietnam (home, Dec 30) and Malaysia (Jan 3, away).
With four titles in 1998, 2004, 2007 and 2012, Singapore are the second-most successful side in AFF Championship history, behind six-time winners Thailand.
However, the Lions did not progress from the group stage in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
They reached the semi-finals of last year’s edition – held in Singapore due to the pandemic – where they lost the two-legged tie 5-3 to Indonesia on aggregate. Thailand went on to beat the Indonesians to win the regional championship.
Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny, Syazwan Buhari, Zaiful Nizam, Zharfan Rohaizad
Defenders: Amirul Adli, Christopher van Huizen, Hariss Harun, Irfan Fandi, Joshua Pereira, Nazrul Nazari, Nur Adam Abdullah, Ryaan Sanizal, Ryhan Stewart, Shakir Hamzah
Midfielders: Adam Swandi, Farhan Zulkifli, Hafiz Nor, Hami Syahin, M. Anumanthan, Shahdan Sulaiman, Shah Shahiran, Song Uiyoung, Zulfahmi Arifin
Forwards: Faris Ramli, Hazzuwan Halim, Ikhsan Fandi, Ilhan Fandi, Shawal Anuar, Taufik Suparno