Football

Good sign for big tournaments ahead

They battled an Oman side that were technically sound, and tactically well put together, showing both grit and gumption to come from behind to draw 3-3.

They matched an aggressive Palestine side tackle for tackle, and won. 

The 1-0 loss to a Tajikistan in their opening match of the Asian Games was the only blemish for Aide Iskandar's Singapore Under-23 side (right), but even then they could have easily emerged victors. 

They may have been booted out of the Asian Games, but in a year that has seen various Singapore developmental sides struggle, the Asian Games side have been bright sparks, and it augurs well for November's AFF Suzuki Cup as well as next June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held in the Republic in June.

"The performances have been positive, as well as the results, and we can look forward with optimism," said Aide. 

"This is great preparation for all these players who want to fight for places in the Suzuki Cup squad, and (national coach) Bernd Stange will be pleased. 

"The senior players (Hassan Sunny, Baihakki Khaizan and Afiq Yunos) did very well, and credit must be given to young ones like Amirul Adli (18), Anumanthan Mohan Kumar (20) and Shameer Aziq (19), too.

POSITIVE 

"The signs are positive." 

Among Aide's 20-man squad here are 13 who are eligible for the 2015 SEA Games, which is an U-23 tourney. 

Faris Ramli showed here that he is a handful for opposition defenders on the Asian stage, while Sahil Suhaimi proved that he can score goals. 

With Shahfiq Ghani starting to come into good form, there is much to look forward to. 

It also means a big selection headache for Stange and Aide. 

"Let's not forget that for the national team, we still have (captain) Shahril Ishak, Hariss Harun and Khairul Amri - now it looks like we have good attacking options," said Aide. 

"And there are players in the SEA Games team who have played together for a long time, and they know each other so well that it seems they have telepathic understanding.

"They are not there yet... but there are exciting times ahead."

But there is something else - something intangible - that has come out of the Asian Games experience, and Baihakki believes it is important. 

"I don't know many of these boys from before, but from what I've seen, they've learnt to switch from having fun, to match mode," he said. 

"And now they believe that they can win, even against the so-called big teams." 

- SHAMIR OSMAN in Incheon