Irfan and Sahil to lead Young Lions' attack
Under pressure to deliver, Young Lions will go on the attack tonight
CAMBODIA U-23 v SINGAPORE U-23
(Tonight, 8.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Facing a do-or-die scenario tonight, Singapore Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar has decided to ring the changes for the team's Group A clash with Cambodia as they look to stay alive in the SEA Games football competition.
First, he has shaved off the scruffy beard which he has sported the past few weeks.
Asked by The New Paper if it was a superstitious gesture, Aide replied: "I'm trying this and that. If this helps, then I'll keep shaving."
The more significant change, however, will be seen on the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch tonight.
Under pressure to win to keep up hopes of a semi-final place, Aide is set to start with two strikers.
Irfan Fandi will start as the team's target man up front, with Sahil Suhaimi close behind him as the support striker.
After an unconvincing 1-0 win over the Philippines last week and a 2-1 defeat by Myanmar on Thursday, fans and critics have lobbied for the 40-year-old coach to field Irfan from the start - especially after the misfiring Sahil has gone two games with several misses and no goals.
The 17-year-old Irfan has made an impact coming off the bench in the last two games.
In desperate need for goals tonight, an Irfan-Sahil combo could be just the kind of firepower the Young Lions need.
"We've been working on our finishing the past few days in training. The aim is for our strikers to be more composed in front of goal," Aide said.
"We have to make our chances count. Maybe the problem is that the players are too tense. I've asked them to relax a bit.
"Sahil has been trying really hard. He just needs one goal to get that confidence again."
With playmaker Shahfiq Ghani still sidelined with a knee injury, the switch to two strikers means midfielder Adam Swandi will likely drop to the bench.
Safirul Sulaiman and Pravin Guanasagaran, who was impressive against Myanmar, will occupy the engine room, with Faris Ramli and Stanely Ng patrolling the flanks.
The attacking approach, said Aide, has nothing to do with Singapore's need for goals to boost their goal difference, which stands at 2-2.
Indonesia, who thrashed Cambodia 6-1 on Saturday, are likely to win big against the Philippines tomorrow.
When the Young Lions meet the Indonesians on Thursday, a draw might be enough for the visitors to qualify for the last four ahead of Singapore.
"Indonesia have an advantage with the goal difference, but we just want to get the three points against Cambodia," Aide said.
"I'm not telling my boys we must score six or seven. And when we play Indonesia, we will go for a win as well."
Aide, along with assistant coach Kadir Yahaya, scouted both Indonesia and Cambodia on Saturday.
He was surprised by the big scoreline, and Aide reminded his team not to underestimate Cambodia, who beat the Young Lions 3-1 in a friendly in March at Jalan Besar.
"Cambodia know they can still qualify (for the semis). So we can't be anything less than at our best," Aide said.
"The next two games will be a test of our character. The players must be focused and strong."
Singapore U-23s probable line-up: Syazwan Buhari, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, M Anumanthan, Shakir Hamzah, Pravin Guanasagaran, Safirul Sulaiman, Faris Ramli, Stanely Ng, Sahil Suhaimi, Irfan Fandi