Singapore fight for SEA Games life, ponder Adam Swandi selection
Singapore will take on Laos in the third of four Group A games on Friday afternoon at Selayang Stadium, knowing that anything less than a win will see them eliminated from the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games football competition.
The Young Lions slumped to their second defeat in as many matches at Shah Alam on Wednesday night, despite taking a first-half lead against host nation Malaysia. They conceded two goals in six minutes to lose 2-1 after a 2-0 opening day defeat to Myanmar.
They will now need to beat Laos on Friday, and Brunei on Aug. 23 in their final two group games, and hope that either Malaysia or Myanmar lose their remaining matches, for a slim chance of progressing to the last four.
Richard Tardy's men will need to cope with fatigue in their third game in just five days.
The experienced Frenchman had expressed concerns about his side's fitness levels after the costly Malaysia defeat.
"In the first half, our organisation was good. We controlled Malaysia, we made things difficult for them, we scored," Tardy told The New Paper.
"After one hour, our problems started physically. It wasn't a problem of pressure from the crowd or the tactics. Unfortunately, we could not play as well as we did in the first.
"Maybe the step up to match Malaysia and Myanmar is a little high, but we are not so far off. Now we must play to win the next two games. We are a national team... we don't resign."
Looking bereft of ideas in the first two games, with Ikhsan Fandi cutting an isolated figure up front, Tardy is likely to hand key playmaker Adam Swandi his first start of the tournament.
The Home United attacker had recovered from damaged ankle ligaments during his club's AFC Cup ASEAN zonal final defeat last Wednesday, coming through unscathed after coming as a 67th-minute substitute for Muhelmy Suhaimi against the Malaysians.
Others in contention to face Laos are captain Shahrin Saberin and playmaker Hanafi Akbar, with the duo being unused subs so far.
The task to take down Laos is made trickier by the fact that they are coached by Mike Wong.
The 51-year-old Singaporean, who joined the Lao Football Association in June as technical director, has taken over the coaching reins for this biennial tournament.
Wong was in charge of the Singapore under-22s at the 2013 AFC U22 championship qualifiers, and is a former Singapore assistant coach to three-time AFF winner Raddy Avramovic.
In their first game of the tournament of Wednesday, Laos seemed on course for a 1-1 draw with Myanmar before conceding twice in added time to fall to a 3-1 defeat.
Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT