Amri: First goal will be decisive
Singapore's national football coach Bernd Stange has a lot to think about ahead of tonight's final Group B clash against old rivals Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Shahdan Sulaiman's ankle injury will see him bereft of the Lions' creative force in midfield, while Baihakki Khaizan's suspension will force him to rejig his backline which might also have to do without right-back Ismadi Mukhtar (groin strain).
But, according to both Hariss Harun and Khairul Amri, the encounter will not be a tactical, cerebral, chess game, but one that will test the emotions - a game of chicken, in which the team that blink first, will lose.
"I would have preferred it if this was a game where we're both fighting for top spot in the group, it's easy to fight hard in games like that, but this is instead a fight for survival - it's a dangerous game," Amri told The New Paper yesterday.
Singapore need a victory to be certain of qualifying for the semi-finals, while Malaysia have no option but to win, and hope Myanmar do not beat Thailand in the group's other fixture.
"You know tackles will come in doubly hard, you'll be closed down doubly fast, in this game that could go either way, because we (Singapore and Malaysia) know each other so well," added the 29-year-old forward.
Hariss believes that desire and focus are of the utmost importance once the team step onto the pitch at the National Stadium.
"The players on the field are the ones who can make things happen, and it all really depends on who turns up for the game (mentally) and who wants it more," said the 24-year-old, whose starting position is the subject of much speculation.
Equally adept in central defence - as he showed in the second half in the Lions' 1-2 loss to Thailand - and in his regular central midfield role, Hariss could well step into the heart of the Singapore defence.
While Amri hopes Hariss stays in midfield, a choice that the latter also prefers, the LionsXII forward believes it is that all-important first goal that will determine which way the match swings.
"That first goal will change everything. If we get it, it will force Malaysia to come out and attack, and leave gaps at the back," said Amri.
"Unfortunately, the effect will be exactly the same for us if they score first."
The most important factor, according to Hariss, is composure, no matter what happens on the pitch.
That is why he feels that the senior players must lead the way.
"The older players must lead by example, instil a feel-good factor on the pitch so that the younger ones can follow," said Hariss, who insisted that he will "play anywhere for the team, to get the job done".
"We are playing in our home stadium, we must use that to our advantage. And, if each player takes responsibility, we'll be fine.
"It's going to be a battle... we shouldn't think too much, and take an affirmative approach from the start."