Young Lions in do-or-die battle against Malaysia
National U-22 coach Tardy targets a win in do-or-die game against hosts Malaysia
It may be only the second match out of four Group A games, but Singapore's Under-22 football team know the equation: Lose to hosts Malaysia tonight and they can start packing their bags.
The Young Lions had lost 2-0 to Myanmar in their SEA Games opener on Monday, while the Harimau Muda beat Brunei 2-1.
With minnows Laos the other team in the group, Richard Tardy's side know they need at least a draw tonight to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
But the 67-year-old Frenchman knows that playing for a point would be suicidal against a Malaysian side keen to get one over the auld rivals in front of the home fans at the Shah Alam Stadium.
Tardy told The New Paper yesterday: "We need a good result and we will play to win.
"We set a target of two points from our first two games, so to have three will be very good, and one will mean we have to depend on other results.
"It is do-or-die because we cannot lose this game if we want to keep intact our chance for the semi-finals.
"We cannot sit and stay behind in our half because they have good speed and attackers who will put us under pressure.
"And I understand that against Malaysia, it is always a special occasion.
"But we also showed in the second half against Myanmar that we are capable of keeping the ball and creating chances.
"In fact, in the whole match, we took 12 shots, which was more than Myanmar's nine.
"We need to keep that same spirit we showed in the second half, cut out the mistakes and get the goals."
On paper, it looks like Tardy does have the players who can do some damage and avenge the 3-1 defeat by Malaysia at the Dubai Cup in March.
The Frenchman showed variety in his team selection against Myanmar when he benched playmakers Hanafi Akbar and Adam Swandi, as well as forwards Taufik Suparno and Amiruldin Asraf.
He sent on the latter two in the second half, but declined to reveal his hand for tonight's game.
One player who will surely keep his place in the starting line-up is the lively Ikhsan Fandi.
The 18-year-old was a constant threat against Myanmar with his long shots, heading ability and improvisation.
"Ikhsan may be young, but he is performing very well," said Tardy.
"He is always fighting hard and, ever since he has played for the team, he has not disappointed. He will be one of the key players against Malaysia.
"Hanafi has good quality, but he didn't play too many games for his club and he has to improve in the times when our team don't have the ball.
"Adam has an ankle injury and has not trained with us since Thursday, but he is better than yesterday.
"I would rate him 70-30 to play against Malaysia, but we will have to assess his situation again because I don't want to lose him for the long term."
Despite having just over 50 hours of rest in between their first two group games, Ikhsan is chomping at the bit to add to recent goals he grabbed against India and Brunei's Under-22 teams. The Young Lions have not lost whenever he scores.
He said: "We are recovering well and, although it was a tough match against Myanmar, Malaysia also did not have it easy against a defensive Brunei in the second game, so we should be around the same level in terms of fatigue.
"We will do everything we can to get the win. You can call it do-or-die, and we want to go as far as we can in this competition.
"I'm still positive I will score against Malaysia and we will get the result we need."
Meanwhile, defending champions Thailand were held to a 1-1 draw by Indonesia in their opening Group B match yesterday.
Thailand took the lead through Chaiyawat Buran in the 14th minute, but Indonesia equalised through a penalty by Septian Maulana in the 61st minute.
In other Group B fixtures, Vietnam thrashed Timor Leste 4-0 while the Philippines beat Cambodia 2-0.