Lions going four goals
Fandi says they need as many as possible in case it comes to goal difference
When the Lions step out onto the National Stadium pitch to face Timor-Leste tonight, their remit will be to do something that they haven't done in almost 3½ years.
Ever since their 1-0 loss to the Philippines in Bacolod last week, interim national coach Fandi Ahmad has decreed that his team have to go for goals in their final Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup Group B home match.
The Azkals' surprisingly narrow 3-2 win over Timor-Leste last Saturday leaves them with a goal difference of +2 compared to the Lions' neutral goal difference, and Fandi was unwavering in his assessment of what is required against the Group B minnows.
At the pre-match press conference at the National Stadium yesterday, Fandi said that he was targeting at least four goals, something the Lions haven't achieved since they beat Cambodia 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Phnom Penh in June 2015.
The 56-year-old told The New Paper: "Tomorrow's game will be a do-or-die mission for us, we need to win and try to win big...
"Timor-Leste are no pushovers, but in our hearts, we want to score four goals and above.
"It's not impossible, but we will do the impossible tomorrow, we have to...
"If we were to win 1-0 or 2-0, that doesn't help us because the advantage will be with the Philippines.
"We have to play Thailand on the 25th and (Philippines) play Indonesia.
"So, we still have to hope that Indonesia will beat them, so there is a calculation that whatever happens, we need to win and win big (against Timor-Leste). After that, we'll see what happens in Thailand."
Sitting 191st in the Fifa rankings, Timor-Leste are the lowest-ranked team in the Suzuki Cup.
They have conceded 13 goals in three matches, but their results have improved steadily since their opening-day 7-0 mauling by holders Thailand on Nov 9.
Four days later, against Indonesia, they led till the 60th minute, before eventually losing 3-1.
Last Saturday, they gave the Philippines a scare with two late goals in a 3-2 loss.
Timor-Leste coach Norio Tsukitate, who previously helmed J-League side Nagoya Grampus Eight, believes his team have grown in confidence.
He said: "Players need time, we've already had three games and the players are maybe a little more confident and getting better."
Fandi singled out Henrique Cruz, Joao Pedro and Gelvanio as "dangerous" players and called Timor-Leste an aggressive, mobile team who are adventurous when on the front foot, but believes their gung-ho nature is something the Lions can exploit.
Said the former striker: "Even if the goal is not coming, we got to be patient in finding the right penetrative pass and run.
Timor-Leste are no pushovers, but in our hearts, we want to score four goals and above. It’s not impossible, but we will do the impossible... we have to...Singapore coach Fandi Ahmad
"The delivery must be good because we have two strikers and two fast wingers to open up (the game) when they attack.
"The advantage is in transition, sometimes they go forward in numbers and forget to defend.
"But when the chance comes your way, you've got to finish it.
"Even though we want to be calm and composed, we cannot miss the first one or two shots because that will make the side lose confidence... (Khairul) Amri and Ikhsan (Fandi) haven't been playing together."
Veteran striker Amri, 33, is expected to come into the starting XI to play alongside 19-year-old Ikhsan in an untested strike partnership.
But expect the Lions to pose a threat with the long-range shooting of midfielders Izzdin Shafiq and Hariss Harun, who scored the Lions' only goal of this campaign in the 1-0 win over Indonesia on Nov 9.
Said Izzdin: "For the past few weeks in training, we've been practising shots from outside the box because if we don't practise, we won't be able to apply it during the game.
"In order for us to score, we have to take a lot of shots."
TONIGHT'S OTHER MATCH:
- Philippines v Thailand