Courageous Cubs overcome Cambodia 3-1
Coaches laud fighting spirit, but U-15 boys need to work on attack and concentration
SINGAPORE U-15 3
(Glenn Kweh 69, Khairie Abdul Hamid 81, Irfan Jeferee 88)
CAMBODIA U-15 1
(Sieng Chanthea 48)
Things looked bleak for the Singapore Under-15 team at the Jalan Besar Stadium last night.
A goal down against group minnows Cambodia, the Cubs were heading for their third straight defeat in the AFC Under-16 Championship qualifying campaign.
But a spirited fightback ensured they ended the night on a positive note, even if they did not progress to next year's Finals in India.
Glenn Kweh's 69th-minute goal cancelled out Sieng Chanthea's strike for Cambodia just three minutes into the second half.
Then two mistakes by Cambodia goalkeeper Kong Rapath in the final 10 minutes gifted Khairie Abdul Hamid (81st) and Irfan Jeferee (88th) goals as Singapore ran out 3-1 winners.
Cubs coach V Selvaraj was pleased with his team's fightback, and also how they responded to sound defeats in Group H matches by Thailand (5-0) last Wednesday and North Korea (3-0) two days later.
"It's not easy coming back after two losses in two tough games," said the 46-year-old former Singapore international.
"Usually, young boys will crack. And if they are one goal down, they'll go down even further.
"But, credit to them, they were strong mentally, never gave up, had so much desire."
Even though the result was an improvement from the Cubs' last meeting with their Cambodian counterparts - a 0-0 in the AFF U-16 Championships in July - Selvaraj said his boys have much room for improvement.
"In the first half, we were creating chances and keeping the ball well," he said. "The only thing that was missing was the killer instinct in front of goal.
"There were also occasions when we lost concentration. Those are the biggest things we need to work on."
Richard Tardy, the Football Association of Singapore's head coach of national youth teams, who gave a scathing assessment of the U-15 and U-16 teams after last month's Lion City Cup, was less critical this time.
He echoed Selvaraj's praise for the players' ability to bounce back, but stressed the need to produce better youth players.
"Today, we are below the two top teams (in Group H), North Korea and Thailand," said the Frenchman.
"But our job in the future is to reduce this difference... Between 12 and 16, we must be nearer to the best teams. If, at 17 or 18, we have too much problems physically and technically, it is too late."