U-21s won't make SEA Games semis
Even SEA Games bronze a step too far at this point
SINGAPORE U-21 0
BAHRAIN U-19 1
(Abdulaziz Rajab 60)
If the South-east Asia (SEA) Games kicked off next week, the Singapore football team would not be among the medallists, and might not even qualify for the semi-finals.
That was the assessment of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) head of national youth teams, Richard Tardy, after watching his national Under-21 side fall 1-0 to the visiting Bahrain Under-19 team at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium last night.
Next year's Kuala Lumpur SEA Games will be an Under-22 affair and, fortunately for Singapore, will be held in August - and Tardy hopes there will be much improvement before the cauldron is lit at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.
Tardy called for Singapore's youngsters to impress him against Bahrain, but the Frenchman was left disappointed, despite the hosts' fashioning opportunities and, for some periods, causing the Bahrain defence much concern.
"This game showed that their level is not enough for the competition we must play next August," he said.
"I wanted to test players from our Prime League (reserve competition to the professional S.League) to test their levels for the SEA Games, and it showed that the technical level of these players - like the league - is low."
Tardy even suggested that the short pass-and-move game that the higher echelons of Singapore's football administration aspire to may be beyond the players.
"Perhaps we need to be more humble, and play to our strengths. We want to build play up from behind, but perhaps we don't have enough (ability) to do this now," he said.
The Singapore side started with an unfamiliar 3-5-2 shape, and with a packed central midfield, saw a lot of the ball in the first half. They fashioned at least three good chances, with the best falling to Irfan Fandi in the 10th minute.
His volley off an Amir Zailani corner was cleared off the line, and that was their best opportunity before Bahrain started asserting themselves by exploiting space in wide-positions that the 3-5-2 affords opponents.
Second-half substitute Mahathir Azeman had a sizzling drive that looked destined for the top corner, but it was acrobatically turned behind by Bahrain goalkeeper Yusuf Shabaan.
That was as good as it got for Singapore, and the Bahraini breakthrough came on the hour, with Abdulaziz Rajab tapping in a well-weighted Mohamed Mahroon pass at the far post.
But it was not all doom and gloom in the Singapore camp.
"We got some satisfaction from players we already know about," said Tardy, pointing to the likes of Irfan, Dhukilan Jeevamani, and captain on the night, Shahrin Saberin.
"For the others (players from Prime League teams) I think it will be difficult to come to the SEA Games squad.
"The problem now is that we can't even say we have 30 players for the SEA Games squad," added Tardy, who bemoaned the fact that there are precious few U-21 players who consistently play in S.League matches.
Two matches against China's U-21 side are being planned next month to give the Republic's youngsters more international exposure.
This game showed that their level is not enough for the competition we must play next August.
— Richard Tardy on his players
- SINGAPORE U-21: Hairul Syirhan, Hafiz Sulaiman (Taufiq Muqminin 46), Amirul Adli (Toh Kian Keong 71), Shahrin Saberin, Dhukilan Jeevamani (Qayyum Hakim 88), Yeo Hai Ngee (Khalili Khalif 86), Amir Zailani (Mahathir Azeman 46), Zulfadmi Suzliman (Jonathan Tan 46), Ryan Syaffiq (Shameer Aziq 67), Irfan Fandi, Shafeeq Faruk (Iqram Rifqi 67)
- BAHRAIN U-19: Yusuf Shabaan, Ahmed Bughammar, Husain Sabba, Hamad Alshamsan (Faisal Alisa 46) (Talal Alnaar 87), Mohamed Hardan, Mohamed Marhoon, Abdulaziz Rajab (Ahmed Sanad 90), Hasan Alkarrani, Hashim Isa (Faisal Al Bureshaid 46), Ebrahim Alawi (Ali Yahya 82), Jasim Husain (Ahmed Hasan 82).