Singapore lose 8-0 to Poland but show spirit
After Tuesday's 16-1 drubbing by Malaysia, last night's result came as little surprise.
But, for 15 minutes at the Sengkang Stadium, the crowd inched closer to the edge of their seats.
Singapore lost 8-0 to Poland in the World League Round 2 quarter-finals, falling four behind after an insipid first two quarters.
But, during the third period, the hosts played like there was something special in the air at Sengkang.
Solomon Casoojee's men kept the ball in the Polish half, and paired attacking intent with penetration against a team ranked 18th in the world.
They failed to score and went on to concede four more goals, but it was a 15-minute performance that clearly perked up the home team.
Centre-half Ashriq Ferdaus thinks he has his finger on what it was that made the difference - nerves and belief.
"We seem to start slow, get too excited and, when everything appears hectic, we don't follow the game plan but, as the game goes on, we get better and start to believe," he said.
"We were tighter, found more space and, in that quarter, you could see the game plan."
This belief, he insists, runs deep - a belief that they can play hockey, can compete, and are equipped to carry on through to the final of June's South-east Asia Games.
Captain Enrico Marican sang a similar tune.
"It takes maturity to start to switch on from the first whistle, and it is through playing games like these that we can learn to be more mature," he said.
"We are a young team still in the process of learning, and people who have been in our shoes understand this, but we want to prove our critics wrong," added Enrico, perhaps still smarting from the Malaysia defeat.
"We never want to feel that way after a match again."
After last night's result, Singapore - one spot lower in 37th after the new world rankings were released on Wednesday - will face Bangladesh (29th) today, in a tussle to see who earn the right to battle for fifth spot in the tournament.
"We still believe in this system of play, and we have the tools - an experienced coach in (Casoojee) and a former Dutch Olympian (Bram Lomans) helping the team - to make it to the final of the SEA Games," said Ashriq.
"We just need more experience and exposure, to go out there and challenge ourselves."
And today's game against Bangladesh presents the first real opportunity to challenge.
"We have proven at the Asian Games that we can challenge Bangladesh," said Ashriq, of the 2-1 loss in Incheon.
"(Today's) match will be our final."
Mexico will face Ukraine in the day's other classification match, with the semi-finals - Malaysia v Japan and Oman v Poland - played tomorrow.
Yesterday's other results:
- Malaysia 10 Mexico 1
- Japan 5 Ukraine 0
- Oman 3 Bangladesh 3 (Oman win 2-0 after a penalty shoot-out)