Singapore Football

A physical test, and 
a chance to bond

Only one draw was managed by the national team in the three games they played on the recently concluded 16-day training tour to Austria.

The Lions scored two goals, both coming in a 2-2 draw with Czech side Brno.

But veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan told The New Paper that there were several positives coming out of the trip that made him optimistic that the new look national team can defend the AFF Suzuki Cup title when the tournament is co-hosted in Singapore and Vietnam in November. 

"This is virtually a brand new team and we know we may not look like favourites,  but there are things that happened in Austria that give us a lot of positivity," he told TNP, after arriving home yesterday with the rest of the squad. 

The 30-year-old revealed that if only first-half performances were taken into consideration, the Lions "would be a great team." 

"We even surprised Stange by daring to play a confident game of short passes against the European opponents, but unfortunately we faded in the second half due to physical issues and the fitness they have at this level," said the LionsXII central defender.

KEY POINT 

"One key point is that these are big European players, our regional rivals haven't shown that they can push us similarly, at least not in physical terms."  

Baihakki revealed that the sports science and medicine team have pencilled in gym sessions for the players to make sure they improve their physical capabilities. 

The national under-23 side were also on tour with the seniors and also displayed some positive signs. 

Having watched two of Fandi Ahmad's sons - Ikhsan, 15, and Irfan, who turns 17 next month - Baihakki believes there are players with genuine potential. 

He paid tribute to the physical strength of Irfan, and also lauded the smooth silky footwork of Ikhsan, saying: "They have different strengths,
 but from what I've seen, it's just a matter of time before they make it somewhere."

Ikhsan scored the final goal in the U-23s 5-0 win over TSV Freilassing.  

Home United forward Fazrul Nawaz believes that both teams benefited in more than just footballing terms. 

"My best memory was having everyone - the national team, the U-23s and even the officials breaking fast together," he said.  

"We also had Nurhafizah (Abu Sujad, team physio) cooking meals for us as we prepared to fast before dawn. That kind of unity was quite special."