Hariss keen to banish ghosts of 2010
The bitter disappointment might have happened more than seven years ago, but it's etched in Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun's memory.
"We needed just a point away at Jordan in our last qualifier (in March 2010) to make it through to the 2011 Asian Cup, but we lost 2-1 and narrowly missed out," said the 26-year-old, who will skipper the Lions against Taiwan in their Group E qualifier at Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
"In a tough group that also included Iran, we had beaten Jordan and Thailand earlier to put ourselves in a good position, so it was really tough to swallow, and I don't want that to happen again."
After an encouraging 0-0 draw with Bahrain in their opening qualifier in March, world No. 157 Singapore can take a big step towards booking their place in their first Asian Cup Finals since 1984 (the Republic were hosts that year) if they beat 160th-ranked Taiwan - the group's lowest-ranked team.
The other two teams in the group are Bahrain (133rd) and Turkmenistan (143rd).
Hariss said: "No disrespect to Taiwan but, if we want to make it through, these are the games we must win.
"We have never qualified for the Asian Cup before, and we want to get there because that will be good for Singapore football.
"I'm optimistic we can do it, but we need to work together."
Much has been made of the Lions' poor scoring record under V Sundramoorthy, with just six goals in 13 "A" internationals, and Hariss urged his teammates to share the responsibility of finding the net.
"People say that's the strikers' job, but it's important that everyone chips in, even myself, to take the pressure off the strikers," said the consummate professional who has four goals from 73 caps.
"It is definitely something we need to improve on, but the good news is we have players in good form such as Faris Ramli, Khairul Nizam and Safuwan Baharudin.
"We have players who can take good set-pieces and even our defenders have scored in the S.League, so things are looking positive."
Sundram's 13 games in charge have yielded just two wins and three draws, but Hariss believes the Lions are capable of better performances.
He said: "We haven't seen the full potential of this current team... I think we have it in us to do much better.
"It's down to how much we believe in ourselves. We can and should play at a higher level, and we will keep pushing to achieve this." - DAVID LEE