Aide: Under-23s will give Japan U-22s a fight
SINGAPORE U-23 v JAPAN U-22
(Today, 6pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Three losses and a draw. Results of the Singapore Under-23's training tour of Turkey last month didn't make for good reading.
The Young Lions lost 3-1, 5-0 and 3-0 to the U-23 teams of Spartak Moscow and Hamburg and Yemen's U-22s respectively, and drew 1-1 with Uzbekistan U-21.
But coach Aide Iskandar is confident that his charges will be more than a match for Japan's U-22 team when they meet in today's friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference yesterday, the former national captain said that the Young Lions have picked up valuable lessons from their two-week Turkish adventure, which was a tune-up for June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games here.
"The sides that we faced, like Spartak Moscow and Hamburg, were rather physical teams," said Aide.
"That is what I want my players to experience, so that they can learn how to play a certain way and how to defend against certain tactics.
"Against Japan, it will be the same. They are strong, quick and they play short passes, so it will really require team effort to play against them."
Sharing his coach's sentiment was captain Shakir Hamzah, who said: "The Turkey trip was valuable to us.
"Not only did we bond as a team, but we also got to work on our strengths and weaknesses together.
"I'm sure we will be competitive against Japan and we will play better than what some people think we are capable of."
Despite the optimism, this game will be a very big test for Aide's men.
Most of Japan U-22's players are from their top-tier J-League Division 1.
The visitors are here to acclimatise for next month's Asian Football Confederation Under-23 Championship Group I qualifiers in Shah Alam against Macau, Vietnam and hosts Malaysia.
Alluding to the senior team's failure to retain the Asian Cup and the sacking of their coach Javier Aguirre, U-22 coach Makoto Teguramori said: "A lot of things have happened over the past few weeks that haven't been good for Japanese football.
"In view of that, I think tomorrow's match will be very important for us to show Japan's ability to the world."
Aide revealed that his selection for today's game is not his final first 11 for the SEA Games. But he suggested that the more experienced players will start.
Forwards Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli - both of whom scored in the LionsXII's 5-3 season-opening win over PDRM in the Malaysian Super League last week - will be in the first 11.
Shakir is expected to lead from central defence, while teenage striker Irfan Fandi will make an appearance off the bench.
"The team I pick to play against Japan is not my final (one). We are still in pre-season, so the floor is still very much open to anyone," said Aide.
"But I would like to see some good performances from certain players as well, those who are more experienced and who are set to form the base of the SEA Games team.
"This team, unlike past years, do not feature players like Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan Mahbud, so we'll have to rely on teamwork.
"That, and good performances from some players, are what I want my team to be built around."
*Tickets at $5 (concession), $10 (gallery) and $15 (grandstand) are available at the North Gate of the Jalan Besar Stadium from 3pm.