By Khalis Rifhan
Two years ago, Singapore started their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign with a draw against Philippines. Although they next earned three points against Myanmar, the Lions crashed out at the group stages after defeat to hosts Vietnam in their last match.
However, current captain Shahril Ishak believes that the national team is capable of putting on a good performance this year, as they bid to go a step further than their last outing in Vietnam.
“Of course we want to progress from the group stages, as previously we went out of the tournament early,” the 28-year-old two-time Suzuki Cup winner said.
“But it might be tough for us, as we know it won’t be easy for us against defending champions Malaysia as they have home ground advantage.
“Many will regard us as the underdogs in the group, as 2010 runners up Indonesia is also in the same group.”
Shahril believes that the inclusion of several young players in the squad, such as 21-year-olds LionsXII duo Safuwan Bahrudin and Raihan Rahman, alongside experienced campaigners such as Aleksandar Duric, Mustafic Fahrudin and Fazrul Nawaz will be beneficial to the squad.
“They are [the] next generation for our national squad. I have won the Suzuki Cup twice in 2004 and 2007. I was then a youngster, and the mixture of young and senior players was right,” the attacking midfielder pointed out.
“Now, it is a good opportunity for them and they must rise up and play their best during the tournament.
“My target is to take [it] a game at a time and achieve progression from the group stage first; only [after we progress] then we will talk about [the] semi-final or the final.”
Singapore will kick off their Group B campaign against hosts Malaysia on November 25, before taking on Indonesia three days later and Laos on December 1.