Football

Face-off

Sazali abdul aziz and Shamir osman size up the key battles in tonight’s match

Here's an image that could make Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini shiver in his boots ahead of tonight's big match at the National Stadium.

The Singapore Selection striker Sahil Suhaimi baring his fangs, promising enough bite to trouble the Serie A champions.

Sahil isn't the most physically imposing forward at just 1.65m tall.

But he is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the Republic's finest striking talents to emerge in a long time.

And he is relishing the chance to test himself against Juventus, and gamely posed for The New Paper with fangs and a vampire cloak as a tongue-in-cheek warning to their top defender, Italian international Chiellini.

Chiellini was famously on the receiving end of a bite from Uruguay striker Luis Suarez at the World Cup two months ago, and led to Suarez being slapped with a four-month ban from football.

Speaking to TNP ahead of the game, Sahil said: "When you go up against a defender like Chiellini, who wouldn't be nervous?

"But I don't care. Yes, he's bigger than me.

"But it seems everyone is, and that hasn't stopped me, yet."

Bernd Stange's side will need Sahil to be at his sharpest if they hope to snap their wretched scoring record against European club sides who have played here.

The last goal a Singapore side have scored in a match such as this was Indra Sahdan's memorable finish against Manchester United in 2001.

National skipper Shahril Ishak, who will lead the team out and could partner Sahil up front, insists the team have what it takes to pierce the famed Italian defence.

"Obviously their main advantage is their physicality, they're bigger and stronger than us," said the 30-year-old forward.

"So, to get around that, we must think ahead about what we are going to do, where we are going to run, even without the ball.

"I know we have not scored against these invited club teams in a long time, but I think we have enough in our attack to end the bad run."

Said Stange: "Teams like Juventus, when they play weaker teams, they will press very hard very early, get two or three goals, close shop and sit on the plane to go back home.

"I am confident we can show two or three moments, what we have improved on over the past year."

While the German bemoaned the loss of top striker Khairul Amri to injury, he added: "We are trying to sell a product to the fans, so we need to deliver.

"There's no need to motivate the players because they are already motivated enough.

"The new National Stadium will host other events but I'm sure, in time, it will be the home of football.

"Of course, people will only come if we deliver."


FIRING BLANKS

  • 22 May 2013: Singapore Selection 0 Atletico Madrid 2
  • 24 July 2010: Singapore Selection 0 Burnley 1
  • 26 July 2009: Singapore 0 Liverpool 5
  • 28 July 2008: Singapore Selection 0 Brazil Olympic Team 3
  • 30 June 2007: Singapore 0 
Australia 3
  • 25 July 2001: Singapore 1 (Indra Sahdan) Manchester United 8
  • 16 July 2001: Singapore 0 Liverpool 2

Get close first, get that shirt later

Hariss Harun's Johor Darul Ta'zim teammate, Luciano Figueroa, has asked him to get close to Carlos Tevez when Juventus take on a Singapore Selection tonight and come back with the Argentinian's jersey. 

Understandably, Hariss (top) is more focused on closing out the midfield during the 90 minutes at the new National Stadium, in what will be a chance to pit himself against some of the world's best players in the world. 

"Andrea Pirlo (above) is in a different class and Paul Pogba dominates the midfield. It's going to be a long, tough night," said the Singapore midfield star, of the task ahead of him tonight. 

"But it's a great opportunity to see how far we are behind these players who are among the best in the world.

"If you can do it against the best, you can do it against anyone else. 

"I'm looking forward to it." 

Hariss will try to complete the assignment given by Luciano, his Argentinian club teammate who has donned the famous sky blue and white alongside Tevez in the past, but football comes first. 

"I will see if I can get close to Tevez after the game, but more important to me is sticking close to them (the Juventus midfielders) throughout the 90 minutes," said the 23-year-old, who turned down a move to Portugal's Rio Ave last year, in favour of a move to Malaysian Super League giants Johor Darul Ta'zim. 

"Pirlo makes the ball seem like it's got a laser-guidance system, and it'll be difficult to do the simple things against Pogba with his physicality and his long legs," said Hariss.

"As an individual, I just want to hold my own, keep the ball, and do the basics well. It's a once in a lifetime chance to see where I stand."

Huge test for region's best

They have been touted as the best central defensive partnership in South-east Asia, but Baihakki Khaizan (above) and Safuwan Baharudin (top) are acutely aware that tonight, they will face some of the best footballers on the planet, when they host Juventus at the National Stadium.  

And they are relishing the prospect. 

"I was star struck when we played against Atletico Madrid, but in this game I aim to show my presence and not let them fool me," said stylish Safuwan, 22. 

A Singapore Selection lost 2-0 to Diego Simeone's La Liga champions in a friendly earlier this year. 

A self professed Manchester United fan, Safuwan is looking forward to testing himself against former Red Devil, Carlos Tevez (below). 

"It's a once in a lifetime chance to test yourself against someone you previously only saw on TV, but the only thing bothering me is that we may think we know everything about him, but his magic comes from his ability to think and do things outside the box," added the youngster. 

Baihakki, the more experienced of the duo at 30, believes the Singapore team, which will be led by national coach Bernd Stange, have enough know-how to be competitive. 

"Playing with the likes of Pablo Aimar and Luciano Figueroa (both Argentinians) on a daily basis did give me a glimpse into just what the players of this calibre can do," said Baihakki  of his time with Johor Darul Ta'zim in the first half of the year.  

"We did get hell from Pablo - in football terms - during training, and I think that experience will help."

The national team's training trip to Austria last month will also come in handy. 

"We did better than I expected on the pitch, maybe because there was no pressure there, but we were improving in line with the Bernd Stange way," he said, of their results there (2-2 FC Brno, 3-0 loss to Toredo Moscow and 2-0 defeat to Dynamo Moscow) 

"And that's exactly what we need to rediscover tomorrow."