Rival Watch: India to face 159th-ranked Singapore in friendly tournament
(Courtesy : Singapore FA Instagram)
The Blue Tigers have met the Lions in 26 matches and won 12 of them.
The Indian national team will return to action during the international break. They’ll take part in the Hung Thinh friendly football tournament in Vietnam against the hosts and Singapore. India's first opponents are visitors Singapore.
The Lions have been playing international football since 1948. Being relatively small-time, they have a pretty decent history. Singapore might be well behind India in the FIFA rankings, but are no pushovers. Underestimating them could be a major mistake from the Blue Tigers and help the Lions pull off a major upset.
Singapore took part in the AFC Asian Cup third-round qualifiers in June. They were placed in a tough group against heavyweights like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Things didn’t go well, as they lost both games but defeated Myanmar 6-2. They could only finish third in the group, meaning the Lions won’t play in the 2023 Asian Cup.
Earlier in March, Singapore had hosted Malaysia and Philippines in a tri-nation series. They defeated them both to win the tournament. They also lost a friendly match to Kuwait ahead of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.
About the Team
Singapore played their first international football game on 22 May, 1948 – a 1-0 win over China. Since then, they have continued playing matches consistently with limited resources. The Lions have only qualified once for the AFC Asian Cup in their history. It came in the 1984 edition, where they got eliminated in the group stage itself.
Despite their sorrows in Asia’s biggest competition, Singapore have done well elsewhere. They’ve won the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship four times – the second-most in history.
The Lions have also won the silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games three times in their history – as well as the bronze medal four times. The Lions have faced India 26 times, in which they’ve won 11 games, lost 12 and drawn three.
The Head Coach
Takayuki Nishigaya had a relatively decent career in Japan, making over 100 appearances across divisions. After a short-lived five-year playing career, he had to retire in 2001. After that, he opted to pursue a coaching career and started his journey at the University of Tsukuba.
He then coached the youth team of J2-League side Tokyo Verdy from 2004-09. He would then go on to manage at the Meiji University and second-division side Albirex Niigata. In 2015, he got his first big break by becoming a manager for J2 side Mito HollyHock.
After two years with them, he had a short stint with another lower division side SC Sagamihara. After working as an assistant coach at Matsumoto Yamaga, he landed the Singapore job in 2022.
While he might not be the most high-profile or experienced coach, Nisigaya has nearly a two-decade long experience of coaching.
He encourages an attacking 4-3-3 formation, using his quick wingers and deploying a quick-passing, fast attacking side. His sides are fearless and aren’t one to park the bus, but are known to be defensively sturdy.
Nishigaya should use the upcoming friendly tournament to make his side more entertaining to watch and Singapore should take the fight to both India and Vietnam.
Players to Watch
The Singapore national team's No. 9 is inarguably their biggest attacking threat right now. He scored a hat-trick in their last match, the 6-2 win over Myanmar. The 23-year-old forward currently plays in the Thailand top division with BG Pathun United. He’s in a hot run of form, having three goal contributions (two goals, one assist) in four appearances for them this season.
Fandi has 16 goals in 31 appearances for the Lions, averaging at least a goal in less than two games. He’s an efficient, quick and clinical striker who doesn’t need many chances to get on the scoresheet. Fandi’s clever movement and predatorial instincts make him a major threat for any side and is a big asset for Singapore.
One of the most experienced players in the squad, Faris Ramli has been playing for the nation for over a decade. The 30-year-old is a skillful winger, often responsible for creating a lot of chances for his side.
Ramli has scored 10 goals in 68 appearances for the Lions, and has an eye for crucial goals. The winger’s pace and trickery make him a tricky customer for any defense. Ramli will look to light things up for his side in the upcoming games and add more goals to his tally.
A legendary player for Singapore, Hassan Sunny has been playing professionally for almost two decades now. The 38-year-old goalkeeper still remains a key part of his side, for whom he has made 98 appearances.
Sunny is in line to make history in the upcoming friendly tournament, as he can hit the 100-match mark later this month.
Sunny will play an important role for the Lions and needs to be at his sharpest to help his side salvage any positive result. Despite his age, the 38-year-old is still very flexible and boasts impressive shot-stopping ability. He’ll need to be at his sharpest and pull off crucial saves time and again to give Singapore any chances of getting results.
What to Expect
Due to the fact that they are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Singapore have no real expectations on them. And that makes them really dangerous. They have nothing to lose in this tournament and will play only to win.
The Lions are aware that getting a single win can help signify their progress under coach Nishigaya. Singapore will stick to their guts, playing encouraging attacking football and will put up a brave fight. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they eke out a major surprise in the games ahead.
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