Young Lions coach keeps cards close to his chest
Coach Aide mulls over options Irfan and Sahil, but playmaker Shahfiq still doubtful
SINGAPORE v MYANMAR
(Tonight, 8.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singtel TV Ch 134, MediaCorp okto)
Less than 24 hours before the Singapore Under-23s take on Myanmar in their second Group A match at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight, the Young Lions still remain, anxiously, in the dark.
"No one has a clue as to who's going to start," midfielder Adam Swandi told The New Paper.
Indeed, coach Aide Iskandar was not exaggerating when he said that he's keeping his cards close to his chest - after the 1-0 opening victory over the Philippines on Monday.
Although they collected three precious points from their first game at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, Singapore performed below expectations against a largely amateur Philippines team.
Changes, Aide said, are likely as the Young Lions face an in-form Myanmar side, buoyed by their stunning 4-2 win over Indonesia on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old coach will likely have to do without playmaker Shahfiq Ghani once again, as the 23-year-old struggles to recover from a knee injury.
Pravin Guanasagaran is in line for a start in the midfield engine room, in place of Safirul Sulaiman.
But the big dilemma Aide faces is whether to field striker Irfan Fandi from the start or off the bench.
The 17-year-old made an impression in the Philippines game when he came on for the ineffective Shamil Sharif after just 35 minutes.
The 1.87-metre tall Irfan held the ball up well and fashioned chances for Sahil Suhaimi and himself.
Aide, however, was giving nothing away, although he admitted that he wasn't ruling out starting both Irfan and Sahil up front.
"It's possible. We've done it before, so there is no issue there," he said.
"Sahil is a different player from Irfan and they complement each other well. It could give our opponents a headache with those two in attack."
Both Aide and assistant coach S Subramani have had discussions with key men Sahil and Faris Ramli.
The LionsXII duo failed to live up to expectations against the Philippines, with Sahil missing three gilt-edged opportunities and winger Faris being a mere passenger throughout the match.
"We've had a chat with both players. They know themselves that they weren't up to scratch in the first game," Aide said.
"Maybe the expectations were too high or maybe it was just the first game and it takes time to get their engines started.
"But I told them that you're only as good as your last game - so they must keep their momentum from their impressive displays for the LionsXII going."
The Myanmarese may be without star men Kyaw Ko Ko and Kyi Lin - both with the senior side for the World Cup qualifiers - but they showed on Tuesday that they had enough pace and killer instinct to punish Singapore.
Said Aide: "I wasn't surprised to see Myanmar beat Indonesia. But, to be fair, the Indonesians are slow starters and I think the news from Fifa (to ban the Indonesian FA) affected them.
"Myanmar play good attacking football, pressure high up the pitch and have speed in attack.
"But, rest assured, we have a game plan (to counter them)."
S'PORE'S PROBABLE LINE-UP:
- Syazwan Buhari
- Al-Qaasimy Rahman
- M Anumanthan
- Sheikh Abdul Hadi
- Shakir Hamzah
- Adam Swandi
- Pravin Guanasagaran
- Stanely Ng
- Faris Ramli
- Shamil Sharif
- Sahil Suhaimi