Singapore eye winning start to Asian Games campaign
GROUP C SINGAPORE v TAJIKISTAN
(Today, 12.55pm, MediaCorp okto)
They know little of their opponents.
That can be good and bad.
Good because team reputation and individual abilities do not come into play.
And you play your game according to your strengths.
Bad because you tend to throw caution to the wind, and that can have repercussions.
But, for Singapore's Under-23 footballers, what matters is victory, or least a draw as the curtain rises for the Asian Games football competition.
For if you do not gain something from your first match, chances are that you won't stay in the competition.
Especially so when your first opponents are rated the weakest of the three group rivals.
If Singapore's final training session yesterday was any gauge to how serious our boys are, one thing's sure: They are eager to make their mark in the clash against Tajikistan this afternoon at the Ansan Wa Stadium in Incheon, South Korea.
The Central Asian side's senior team are ranked 120th in the world, and, on paper, they look the weakest opponents for Singapore in Group C which also includes Oman (67th) and Palestine (88th).
The Lions are ranked 152nd.
Aide Iskandar's boys know that they have to get a decent result today if they want to make it to the Round of 16.
Winger Faris Ramli, the 22-year-old LionsXII star, echoed this to The New Paper when he said: "In any tournament, it's really important for us to get a good result in our first game and this time it is no different.
"Even though it is only the first game, we know it could decide our fate in the tournament."
The wiry Faris scored eight goals last season and was one of the few bright spots in what was a dismal year for the LionsXII who finished eighth in the Malaysian Super League and were knocked out of the Malaysia Cup group stage.
He is expected to play a similarly important role for Aide as Singapore hope to claw their way out of the group stages at the Asiad for the first time.
Coached by former national skipper Aide, the team - which also include the over-aged trio of goalkeeper Hassan Sunny and defenders Baihakki Khaizan and Afiq Yunos - arrived in Incheon on Thursday and have had four days to acclimatise themselves.
"Even though we're a newly formed team, we feel really comfortable together, as if we've played together for a long time," said Faris.
"There are a lot of young, talented players in this team and we have a great trio of senior players. Hopefully, we can show what we are all about, starting with the game against Tajikistan."