Floorballers on course to meeting target
Singapore's floorballers defeat Japan to keep in sight a best finish at world championship
The Singapore men's floorball team yesterday earned only their second group-stage victory at a World Floorball Championship under the current format when they defeated Japan 9-5 in an enthralling encounter.
Their other win was in the 2016 edition, also 9-5, against the US.
Following Sunday's 4-4 draw with Canada, world No. 17 Singapore are second in Group D and are on course to achieving coach Matti Joutsikoski's target of improving on their best finish at the biennial tournament, where they finished 12th out of 12 teams in 1996.
However, the Canadians can leapfrog Singapore should they beat Japan and accumulate a better goal difference than Joutsikoski's charges, who face European heavyweights Slovakia today.
A concern ahead of the game against Slovakia is Singapore's tendency to relinquish their lead. They led Canada 4-2 before settling for a 4-4 draw.
Against 16th-ranked Japan, Singapore led on four occasions - only to allow them back into the game at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
In a frenetic first period, Singapore led after four minutes through Hafiz Zubir, but Danjiro Maeda restored parity within three minutes. The next time Maeda levelled the tie, it took him only six seconds, when he scored from a face-off, after his side conceded to a Hamka Shah screamer.
Mazran Sutiman then got onto the scoresheet with goals in the 12th and 17 minutes, but Japan captain Ichiro Ueda ended a thrilling period with a coolly converted penalty in the 19th minute.
Singapore defender Gary Wong extended his side's lead to 5-3 with a long-range effort in the 12th minute of the second period but, again, Japan stormed back with a quick-fire brace from Ueda in the 18th and 19th minutes to make it 5-5.
Joutsikoski then encouraged his side to stick to their game plan and have faith in their process.
He also replaced Rosfazwan Roslan with first-choice goalkeeper Jay Pal Sidhu, who had come on briefly earlier to save Kaimu Abe's penalty.
The pep talk worked a treat as Singapore dominated and their possession play resulted in forward Vignesa Pasupathy tapping in a goal in the ninth minute of the third period. Singapore, with a 6-5 lead and oozing with confidence, never looked in danger thereafter.
It is an important lesson for us, to always keep our concentration up no matter what to prevent such instances from occurring again.Singapore forward Vignesa Pasupathy on his side relinquishing the lead against Japan on four occasi
In fact, Vignesa went on to score another before goals from Ng Juin Jie and Hafiz added gloss to the scoreline.
Said Joutsikoski: "I'm extremely proud of my team. We stuck to our game plan, we played to our strengths and showed how strongly we can come back after a tougher second period.
"We also displayed our mental strength and I couldn't be more pleased with the results and how we played."
The 51-year-old Finn, who wanted to create the illusion that the last period is a fresh start by changing his goalkeepers, also revealed what he told his side before they started the last 20 minutes.
"Our game is possession-based, offensive floorball. So we told them to build on their good passing, execute more forehand-to-forehand passing and to keep the ball moving. The players also had to keep moving, looking for openings for the passing and shooting lanes."
Looking ahead to today's game with world No. 10 Slovakia, Joutsikoski said: "We take one shift at a time and we will play the same way, and to the best of our abilities. I don't need to think about goal difference.
"Slovakia are a highly technical and fast team and... I'm really looking forward to demonstrating how well we can play against a top European team."
Man of the Match Vignesa added: " The team spirit and support back home have been awesome. They spur us to play for one another and for the nation."
- Slovakia v Singapore (7.45pm)
- Canada v Japan (9.30pm)