Recalling 2012 experience, Lions remain hopeful
Hariss Harun ran at the heart of Cambodia's defence, stopped, looked left, then right, and turned to pass the ball backwards, throwing his hands up in despair as he did so.
The Lions defeated Cambodia 1-0 at the Bishan Stadium last night - their first win in seven games - 48 hours before their flight to Manila for an AFF Suzuki Cup campaign that kicks off on Saturday, but all is not well as far as Hariss is concerned.
"This doesn't feel right, no," he said sombrely.
"I don't know, maybe we're short on confidence, short on self-belief - I really don't know."
Cambodia dominated the first half last night, and fashioned several chances, but were either denied by the woodwork or the solid Hassan Sunny.
At least there is a bit a deja vu to all this - prior to leaving for Malaysia for the 2012 edition of the Suzuki Cup, the Lions suffered from poor results, and even worse form.
But they rallied to beat Thailand in the final to win what was then a record fourth Asean triumph.
That memory gives Hariss confidence, especially after a trying preparation phase.
"This is quite similar to 2012, the pressure was there (then) too. It was a boost that we beat the hosts 3-0 in their own backyard, and that first win was very important," said Hariss, recalling the opening win over Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
This time out Singapore will again face the hosts of the group stage in their opening game of a tough first stage featuring defending champions Thailand as well as Indonesia.
"The preparation (this time) has not been easy, travelling to Qatar, Malaysia and then preparing for this game, but having to travel is part and parcel of football.
"Now we've got a couple of days before we fly. Hopefully this sets us up to be a little fresher for that opener against the Philippines - freshness is important," he said.
Sundram will be hoping for the same, and he hoped for more mental strength.
"We lost the very ball cheaply…and our set-pieces could be better," said Sundram of his team's first half performance, although he pointed to better mobility, ball retention and penetration in an improved second half.
And Hariss is already moving into a positive mindset, and that could augur well for the Lions.
"It's important that we keep being positive. Tournament football is different, the games will come thick and fast, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed," he said.
"We will use this as a stepping stone, our first win after six games, it does feel that we've got the monkey off our back - and we need to use it as a platform."