U-21s want Causeway bragging rights
Tardy and players expect fiery atmosphere but can't wait for derby
REPORTING FROM MALACCA
MALAYSIA v SINGAPORE
(Today, 8.40pm, Singtel TV Ch 110 - Eleven Sports)
There was little noise at the Hang Jebat Stadium yesterday as the Singapore Under-21s were put through their paces in their first training session in Malacca yesterday.
But it will be very different tonight, when a huge crowd of locals are expected to turn up at the 40,000-capacity arena for their Nations Cup opener against the visitors.
While the Causeway Derby promises to be a tense affair, Singapore captain Ammirul Emmran believes his team will be unfazed by the occasion.
"I think most of us have already played against Malaysia, in the U-15, U-16 or U-17 age group," the 21-year-old told The New Paper after the 90-minute long session with coach Richard Tardy.
"So, it's nothing new to us; more or less, our players know what to expect during the game."
Tardy, who confirmed that he has a fully-fit squad to choose from, said they have watched footage from Malaysia's 2-0 win over the Philippines in March.
"We are playing at 8.45pm, so we have time to recover. It was a long journey because we stayed in the bus for four hours, but the players are young, so that is not a problem," he said.
"I know it will be very difficult; Malaysia are very fast and play very strongly. They are also playing at home, so we are sure that we have very strong opponents in front of us."
Ammirul, who said the team have identified a few Malaysian players to look out for, urged his teammates to keep a cool head in what could be a hostile atmosphere.
"With this kind of huge crowd and stadium, everyone will be supporting Malaysia, and we must not retaliate against the players, or even the crowd if they jeer at us," he said.
"It's up to the individual to stay focused on our game plan and not think too much about the crowd - I think that's the most important thing."
For Tardy, the quality of opposition is a welcome test for the team, as they step up preparations for next year's South-east Asia Games in Kuala Lumpur.
STEP BY STEP
"We lost in Iran twice (in March), but Iran are a very good team, and we showed good things on the field," he said.
"We must go step by step. It's a local tournament with Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, and in this kind of tournament, every country wants to show that it's the best in the zone.
"It's good to play in this kind of tournament, where the players can go up to another level, or for some others, show their limit."
Tardy, who already knows his starting 11, said his charges are raring to go.
"They've been waiting for this tournament for a long time; they want to come and be selected in the starting line-up," he noted.
"The spirt is one good thing - the quality of the players would be another. We must have these two to play a good game."
Added Ammirul: "We have been training hard for this kind of game, so everyone here wants to play and give their 100 per cent."