Singapore's World Cup dream crushed by 3-1 defeat , Latest Singapore Football News - The New Paper
Singapore Football

Singapore's World Cup dream crushed by 3-1 defeat

On a night when the Singapore national football team’s 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign ended with yet another loss – 3-1 to Thailand – forward Ikhsan Fandi provided a rare bright spark for the Lions at the Rajamangala Stadium.

The Singaporean’s 57th-minute strike broke Thai hearts as their players collapsed to the ground in tears at the final whistle after missing out on qualification by a goal. The War Elephants began the game needing a three-goal victory over Singapore to leapfrog second-placed China on goal difference and join group leaders South Korea in the next round.

The strike was a relief for Ikhsan, as it was his first in national colours since September 2022, ending a run of five matches without a goal for his country. He had also missed several international games after he ruptured his right patella tendon in a home friendly against the Maldives in December 2022.

Ikhsan, who signed a three-year contract extension with Thailand’s BG Pathum United on June 1, told The Straits Times after the match: “As a striker for my team, my goal is to score goals and help the team win.

“I‘m happy that I could score but it’s still a loss. But we showed character and a lot of fight to come back. We had a lot of chances and... we could have potentially got a draw or even a win to show that we could fight with Thailand.”

Despite the positives for Ikhsan, the loss meant the Lions ended their qualifying campaign bottom of Group C with no wins, a draw and five defeats in six matches. During their 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Singapore claimed two victories, a draw and five losses.

It was however an improved display compared to the meek 7-0 thumping at the hands of South Korea on June 6 at home. This time, Singapore created several chances apart from Ikhsan’s goal.

Lions assistant coach Gavin Lee, who was filling in for Covid-positive Tsutomu Ogura, said: “We wanted to stay as close to (Thailand) as possible and we knew we would have our chances. The chances arrived but unfortunately, we didn’t take them.

“There were some improvements in performance, but this is the start of a journey where we are trying to change our playing style. It will take time. It is obvious that the Thais are a step ahead of us and we definitely want to close that gap.”

The top two teams from each of the nine groups advance to the third round of qualifiers. With South Korea claiming a 1-0 win over China in Seoul ahead of the Thailand-Singapore game, the Thais saw their campaign end courtesy of Ikhsan’s strike. China, who were level on points and goal difference with Thailand, advanced owing to a better head-to-head record after beating the latter 2-1 in November.

With everything to play for, the Thais started their hunt for goals from the get-go on June 11 as the Lions were forced to retreat against a barrage of attacks.

With a sold-out crowd of 39,404 roaring on the home side, they opened the scoring in the 37th minute. A quickly taken free kick caught the Singapore defence off guard as Chanathip Songkrasin ran on to Theerathon Bunmathan’s through ball and laid it on a plate for the Belgium-based Suphanat Mueanta to finish.

And just as they did against South Korea, where they conceded three goals in four minutes in the second half, the Lions almost conceded another, but Hassan Sunny – who made 11 saves in the game – thwarted Supachai Chaided’s close-range attempt.

The Thais received a sucker punch in the second-half, when Ikhsan ran onto a Glenn Kweh pass and unleashed a fierce strike that left Thai goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai with no chance.

But the hosts rebounded with Poramet Arjvirai scoring in the 79th minute via a sublime strike, before Jaroensak Wonggorn added to the tally in the 86th minute. While they continued to pour forward in search of a crucial goal, the Thais – who had 35 shots compared to Singapore’s 10 – could not find the net again.

After a night of tension and drama, both sides left the field disappointed, their World Cup dreams over.

There is still hope for one South-east Asian nation, after Indonesia advanced to the third stage of World Cup qualifying for the first time with a 2-0 win over the Philippines at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

North Korea also progressed after a 4-1 victory over Myanmar to join China, Australia, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

Singapore FootballlionsWorld Cup qualifiersthailand