Japan U-22s dish out football lesson to Young Lions
SINGAPORE U-23 1
(Irfan Fandi 78)
JAPAN U-22 8
(Shoya Nakajima 10, 22, Musahi Suzuki 35, Haruya Ide 43, Ryota Ohshima 45, Takuma Arano 55, 83, Sei Muroya 76)
How thankful Aide Iskandar must be that his Singapore Under-23 side will compete in the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June, and not the Asian Games.
If it was the latter, he would be having sleepless nights for the next four months, based on the 8-1 whipping his team received from the Japan Under-22s at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
In his opening statement at the post-match press conference, the 39-year-old coach was quick to put things into perspective.
"It was a painful result for me, but the boys will learn a lot from this game," he said.
"They would surely have learnt just how big the gap is between South-east Asian and Asian football.
"And (last night), we played against the best team in Asia."
On the evidence of the match, Aide was probably right about the opponents being Asia's No. 1.
Prepping for the qualifiers to the 2016 Rio Olympics, beginning next January, the Japanese would have been a match for any top European country.
They packed loads of pace; their technique was sublime, and the anticipation of every pass, clearance or ricochet, was a step ahead of the Singapore players.
When the Samurai Blue made it 2-0 after 22 minutes, courtesy of a Shoya Nakajima-double, the Singapore heads began to drop.
And the 3,458 fans sensed a rout on the cards.
By half-time, it was 5-0 to the visitors.
Japan, who comprised mainly players from the J-League's top tier, played the friendly match with much hunger and never stopped foraging forward for goals.
They were motivated by criticisms received after their disappointing Asian Games outing last September, when they were knocked out of the quarter-finals by the hosts and eventual winners South Korea.
Japan's coach Makoto Teguramori explained: "One of our biggest challenges recently has been scoring, and people were asking if we were good enough in attack.
"The players were motivated by this, and this result showed that we could overcome that challenge, to an extent."
The Young Lions fell victims to the backlash, but there were some positives among the many negatives from the mauling.
On as a second-half substitute, Irfan scored from Singapore's only corner kick of the match, steering the ball into the far corner with his right foot.
The 17-year-old could prove to be a valuable asset during the SEA Games, especially when a more physical presence (he is 1.86 metres tall) is needed off the bench.
Arise Taufiq Muqminin?
Despite being one of the less experienced players in the squad, defender Taufiq looked calm and assured when he was brought on in the second half.
Said Aide: "Taufiq added stability to the defence when he was on.
"I'm happy with his performance and pleased to find another gem in the defence department."
Better communication in defence At least two goals could have been prevented if there was better understanding between goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari and the back four.
A leader needed in midfield
Centre back Shakir Hamzah marshalled the defence the best he could, but there was no general in the Singapore U-23s engine room, as Japan dominated the midfield.
M Anumanthan looked up for it when he came on after the 36th minute, but fizzled out after a while.
Not keeping their heads up
The Young Lions looked beaten as soon as the second goal was conceded and never regained their composure to keep the ball in midfield.
"We need to correct our lapses in concentration," Aide said.
"The team are young, so that will happen (but) in the future, we cannot stop and have to keep fighting all the way." Aide's charges face Syria U-22 on Wednesday in another warm-up match before the S.League season begins next month.