Singapore want revenge against Cambodia
Lions' star Hariss accepts underdog tag for Suzuki Cup, but says a result tomorrow can spark the team
SINGAPORE v CAMBODIA
(Tomorrow, 7.45pm, Bishan Stadium)
Five months ago, the Lions returned to Singapore from Phnom Penh with tails between their legs.
V Sundramoorthy's men fell to a 2-1 defeat by Cambodia on a rain-soaked pitch at the hosts' Olympic Stadium - only their second loss to the Angkor Warriors in 17 meetings.
The two teams meet again tomorrow at the Bishan Stadium, in the final tune-up for both sides before they begin their AFF Suzuki Cup campaigns next Saturday.
For the region's top football competition, Singapore are in Group A with defending champions Thailand, Indonesia and co-hosts Philippines.
Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam and co-hosts Myanmar make up Group B.
In terms of world ranking, Singapore enter tomorrow's game as underdogs for the first time - Cambodia leapfrogged the Lions to 167th two weeks ago, with Singapore 171st after going six "A" internationals without a win.
Singapore midfield star Hariss Harun, however, believes the match is a chance to send a message that the Lions should not be written off.
"The game on Sunday is a good chance to put the ghost of the previous game to rest," said the 25-year-old Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) man.
"We also need to start gaining momentum ahead of the Suzuki Cup, and a good performance and result will go a long way in terms of confidence and belief.
"But we have to remember Sunday is just another step towards what we are preparing for - which is the Suzuki Cup itself."
Hariss was one of five overseas-based players who did not play in the shock reversal in July.
He was on the road with JDT for a Malaysia Cup match in Perak when the result reached him.
"I was shocked because, with all due respect to Cambodia, we generally do well against them," he said.
"Especially since we beat them 4-0 (in Phnom Penh) in a World Cup qualifier just a year ago.
"I spoke to some of the boys who played, and it was not an easy game - one of those where the ball just wouldn't go in. And we conceded early too, which didn't help."
The match was delayed by half an hour due to a downpour, and Chan Vanthanaka put Cambodia ahead after 18 minutes with a superb free-kick.
Khairul Amri equalised with a header five minutes later, but the hosts regained the lead through a contentious goal by Thit Dina, after Vanthanaka appeared to be offside in the build-up.
In the second half, the Lions struck the woodwork three times and could not find another leveller.
It was their first loss to Cambodia in 44 years - the only other time they lost to the Angkor Warriors was at the Jakarta Anniversary football tournament in 1972 in a 3-0 defeat.
Striker Sahil Suhaimi, who was thrown on for the last 15 minutes in the July match, said: "The atmosphere was intense.
"Coach (Sundram) was trying out different players in different positions, but it seemed as if Cambodia were treating the match like a final.
"But this time, we are more prepared, and we are more settled now."
Hariss admitted Singapore's recent results - their last win was a 1-0 triumph over Myanmar in June - do not fill many fans here with hope they will lift a record fifth Suzuki Cup next month.
But he said: "Everybody's calling our group the Group of Death, and looking at the teams in it and our recent results, people will think we are underdogs.
"But nobody will ever write Singapore off, and I don't think the Thais, Philippines or Indonesia are going to say they will walk all over us.
"We cannot let that happen and we won't let that happen.
ONLY WAY IS UP
"We have the experience and the players who are aware of what the current situation is, and know what we must do to change it."
Added Hariss: "Right now, for us, the only way is up.
"I believe - and this is shared by a lot of the squad - that we are much better than our recent results.
"We've played some decent football at times, and we just need it to come together and click for us and the goals and the results will come, hopefully at the Suzuki Cup."
The game on Sunday is a good chance to put the ghost of the previous game to rest.
— Lions’ vice-captain Hariss Harun, on the 2-1 loss toCambodia in July