Japan fans confident of victory over Lions
What do Lionel Messi, Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Torres, Alessandro Del Piero and Alexis Sanchez have in common?
Apart from being football superstars, they were all inspired by a player called Captain Tsubasa in their younger days.
Captain Tsubasa is not real but a figment of Japanese artist Yoichi Takahashi's imagination.
His manga creation of the same name in 1981 was so popular that it spawned an anime series and video games.
Mr Takahashi will be cheering on the Samurai Blue as Japan play Singapore in the reverse fixture of their World Cup Qualifier this evening.
The 55-year-old, who has been in town since Monday as part of a tour to promote exchanges between Singapore and Japan through football, sang praises of Lions goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud yesterday.
Izwan was the hero in June's goalless draw in Saitama, where he saved 18 shots to almost single-handedly defy Japan, who have gone to score 12 goals without reply against their other Group E rivals.
INSPIRING: In town to support Japan, artist Yoichi Takahashi created football comic Captain Tsubasa. TNP PHOTO: NABILAH NORDIAN
When The New Paper asked Mr Takahashi if Izwan's heroics would inspire his future comics, he laughed and said through an interpreter: "Maybe."
He added: "He is good enough to be discovered by the J-League."
While positive about Japan's chances of beating Singapore, Mr Takahashi said: "I think Japan have to score goals early or it would get tougher later and they would face a lot of pressure."
Likewise, some of his compatriots who were at the National Stadium to watch the Japanese team train yesterday evening were confident of victory this time.
As they were not allowed into the stadium, the six fans stole glimpses of the players through the gaps of the locked gates.
Although the distance meant that they could hardly identify their favourite stars, they were still excited.
Four of them - Miss Natsumi Nakamura, 20, Mr Keisuke Kanda, 20, Mr Ryo Namba, 20, and Mr Teru Oshiro, 24 - are on a year's exchange programme at Nanyang Polytechnic.
Ms Nakamura, a fan of midfielder Shinji Kagawa, said: "I was so sad during the previous game between Japan and Singapore, when we drew 0-0."
Mr Oshiro, a fan of Japanese captain Makoto Hasebe, added: "I was so upset that I couldn't stop complaining for two days straight."
Two other fans - Mr Takeo Mikami, 39, an executive, and Miss Natsuko Ishii, 22, a fresh graduate, travelled to Singapore specially for the match.
Both are fans of centreback Maya Yoshida and had brought his jersey with them to the stadium.
Mr Namba, who is single, spent more than $1,000 on plane tickets and accommodation and will be in Singapore for four days.
He said: "I have been a fan of the J-league for more than 20 years. My friends thought it was too expensive to come all the way to Singapore, so I came here alone to support the team.
"It was a draw when the match was played in Japan, so we have to be even more careful now because the match is played in Singapore."