Hariss Harun: Lions must beat Cambodia
Midfield inspiration Hariss rallies troops ahead of another crucial clash
SINGAPORE v CAMBODIA
(8pm, Tuesday, National Stadium)
They are well in contention in Group E of the World Cup/ Asian Cup qualifiers, just three points off leaders Japan and with a genuine opportunity to close the gap on Tuesday.
The Lions face Cambodia in their own den at the National Stadium, a team they beat 4-0 in Phnom Penh just four months ago.
They should be in buoyant mood, after a 1-0 win over Afghanistan on Thursday kept alive hopes of qualifying for the Asian Cup Finals for the first time.
But the Singapore side are in a strange headspace.
They turned in their worst performance of the qualifiers against Afghanistan, only to sensationally escape with three points.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, midfield star Hariss Harun, who was sorely missed on Thursday as he served a one-match suspension, warned the Lions have to beat the Cambodians.
"Every game from now is important, Syria lost (3-0 to Japan) and things are very tight in the group now," he said.
"We must get three points in this game against Cambodia, there are no two ways about it."
The 24-year-old says the team know they have to do much better.
"I spoke to the boys after the game, and we're happy that we got three points against Afghanistan, but you could see from some of their faces that they knew that we're capable of much better performances," said Hariss.
"We need to improve, we cannot afford a repeat of that performance, we cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.
"For us right now, it's important that we take a look at ourselves, get things right on the pitch, and not underestimate Cambodia.
"We did beat them 4-0 in Cambodia but that was no easy game. We played well, we executed the game plan perfectly and that was why we won," he added.
"We cannot think that we're a superior team when we face them, we must be professional, work hard and show more desire."
Japan are favourites to finish top and move into the next round of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Bernd Stange's Lions are looking to finish as one of four best runners-up from eight qualifying groups to make the 2019 Asian Cup Finals, and after three away games, highlighted by a stunning 0-0 against the Blue Samurai in Saitama, hopes were high, especially with four successive home games up next.
But the insipid performance against the Afghans was a rude reality check.
Said Hariss: "There always needs to be a balance of how we want to play, and actually getting a result. Against Japan we just sat back in defence, and did what little we could on the counterattack. It wasn't very pretty, but no one said anything then, it was an excellent result for us.
"In the last game we were nowhere near our best but we got the result and, against Cambodia, the priority is still the result, but we cannot keep going and playing like we did on Thursday."
In the absence of Hariss and Safuwan Baharudin who was also suspended, the Lions were taken to school by an Afghanistan side playing an entertaining brand of pass-and-move football.
It is perhaps more crucial now that the Lions turn in a much better performance.
Only 7,128 fans watched the game in the 55,000-capacity National Stadium and Hariss urged Singaporeans to turn up in force on Tuesday.
"We appreciate the fans who came down for the Afghanistan game, and we would love it if more come down on Tuesday.
"A big crowd definitely pushes us on the field, and the National Stadium is our home venue now and if more Singaporeans came, that'll definitely give us more fire," he said.