S'pore win but coach Casoojee calls for improvement
Hosts show unity in win over Myanmar, but face daunting task against top-ranked China tomorrow
(Adam Aniq 10, Haseef Salim 22, Sabri Yuhari 26, Hanif Murid 32, Timothy Goh 38, Norman Teo 55)
(Ni Zar 48-pen)
The scoreboard already read 6-1 when Norman Teo stood inside the circle, facing the Myanmar goalkeeper.
The forward had already put his name on the scoresheet just minutes earlier - his first international goal - but instead of going in search for more glory, he squared the ball for a teammate in a much better position.
That man, Timothy Goh, failed to find the target, and the World League (WL) Round 1 Pool B fixture ended with no further goals, but that encapsulated the approach of the Singapore hockey men and the team ethic that were on show at the Sengkang Stadium last night.
But Singapore, ranked 38th in the world, will have to do much better if they hope to pull off a surprise against world No. 19 China in the semi-finals tomorrow.
Last night's game saw the Republic finish second with six points in Pool B, three points behind pool winners Sri Lanka, who face Pool A runners-up Thailand in the other semi-final.
The top three teams here will qualify for the WL Round 2.
"This was obviously better than (that game against) Sri Lanka - there were signs of improvement," said Singapore coach Solomon Casoojee, of his charges' 2-1 loss to the South Asians on Tuesday. Singapore had taken the lead and were comfortable for 20 minutes of the first half, before Sri Lanka scored two goals to win the game.
"There was more of a team effort, there was more cohesiveness… and there were first international goals for Hanif (Murid) and Norman. But we were looking for 70 minutes of good structured hockey, and I can't say that I'm happy with the overall performance," added the South African, with a healthy dollop of reality.
The Chinese have thumped every team that have stood in front of them in Pool A, scoring a whopping 49 goals and conceding just once in four games here.
They are also the highest-ranked, and clearly the best team, in the WL Round 1.
But there were several positives at Sengkang last night, and the men will hope to build on that.
"That last game (against Sri Lanka) was a wake-up call for us, and we were aiming to be more business-like and go out there and get the three points needed to get us into the semis," said Jaspal Singh, one of Singapore's most consistent performers at the WL.
"We were a lot more composed this time, and didn't allow the opponents to dictate how we played. The early goals helped, of course."
But the size of the task ahead is not lost on anyone in the Singapore camp.
"We will be underdogs but, honestly, we haven't started thinking about China at all," added the defender.
"They've been hammering the other teams, and we have to be up for it (tomorrow) - it is a bit of a do-or-die game for us."
Casoojee already knows what he has to fix today, before his charges line up against China, his penultimate game in charge of the Singapore side before he leaves his post at the end of the month.
"Penalty corners are a big weapon for China, so we're going to have to be sharper there, while also being aware of their fast and sharp counter-attacks," said Casoojee, who rued his team's game average of turning the ball over some 70 times due to poor ball control.
"We need to be better at the moment we transit from possession to non-possession. And it's not just the guy who loses the ball, but also everyone else around him.
"There is a lot of work to be done, and we're going to have to be much, much better than we were (last night) if we're going to have a chance against China."
- Sri Lanka 6 Brunei 0
- Kazakhstan 1 Hong Kong 1 (HK win 3-2 on penalties)
- Singapore 14 Cambodia 0
MEN'S POOL A
- Thailand 4 Hong Kong 3
- China 11 Brunei 0
- 5pm: Hong Kong v Cambodia
- 5.30pm: Kazakhstan v Thailand
- 7.30pm: Singapore v Brunei