Lions of Canaan wary of the Lions of S’pore
Palestinians upbeat after stunning Uzbekistan but warned against complacency
When Singapore and Palestine lock horns in tonight's World Cup qualifier, both sides will go on the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch with a bounce in their steps.
No, it will not be because of the ground's artificial turf but because of the teams' positive start to the qualifiers.
Palestine, ranked 102nd in the world - 60 places above the Lions- kicked off their qualifying campaign with an unexpected 2-0 win over world No. 84 Uzbekistan last Thursday.
The Lions of Canaan sat back for most of the match but punished the Uzbeks with two goals on the counter-attack.
Ironically, their opponents today settled for a 2-2 draw with Yemen, turning in a dominant display at the National Stadium but were undone by two goals against the run of play.
The Palestinians' coach Noureddine Ould Ali has warned them about complacency against Singapore.
He said at a pre-match press conference at Oasia Hotel Novena yesterday: "Sure, when you win against Uzbekistan, you have to be happy first.
"This win gives us confidence but we must be careful not to have an excess of confidence. We need to be real and focused because Singapore are not an easy team to play against."
Midfielder Nazmi Albadawi echoed his coach's sentiments, warning that his side must be wary of the Lions regardless of the teams' rankings.
Said Albadawi: "In football, it doesn't matter where you are in the rankings, anything can happen... and we know that they're a strong team and we need to be at our best to beat them, especially at their home field in Singapore.
"So, we're going to work hard and try to get a result but we know that it's going to be a tough game."
Today's match will be played on the Jalan Besar Stadium's artificial turf as Thursday's venue, the National Stadium, had been booked for the Japan Summer Festival, held in conjunction with the quarterly Sports Hub Community Play Day.
T he playing surface is usually an advantage for the hosts, but Albadawi shot down that suggestion.
He said: "I think everyone knows the pitch isn't the best. But look, in football, this happens right?
"At the end of the day, they're playing on the same field that we are too. So, we have to adapt, we have to learn how to play on it.
"And we're going to compete any way possible to win. It is what it is, and it's not going to change overnight. So, we have to learn how to play on it."
The Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium, home of the Palestine national football team, also has an artificial surface.
Meanwhile, Yoshida revealed yesterday that the statistics collated from the 2-2 draw with Yemen made for good reading.
He wants his side to make it count where it matters - the final score.
Yoshida said that the Lions recorded more than 600 successful passes, while amassing 71 per cent possession overall. But, from 21 attempts - of which eight were shots on target - only two were converted.
Said Yoshida, who also revealed that he had a full squad to pick from: "We must improve these things and must concentrate the full 90 minutes.
"I expect my boys can do it. I trust and believe my boys will do their best tomorrow.
"This game, if we have chances, we have to score. It doesn't matter (if we win 1-0 or 4-3), I just want to win."
With both sides in bullish mood, fans could be in for a treat come kick-off. Yoshida wants his Lions to get a helping hand from the 12th man.
He said: "I hope the stadium is full. We want to win but Palestine also want to win.
"We have home advantage but we must get the power from the fans."