Having lost 2-0 at home earlier this year to the Philippines, the Lions will look to do better against the same opposition in their friendly in Cebu on Thursday evening
|By Teng Kiat
Five days after losing 2-0 to J-League side Shimizu S-Pulse in a friendly as part of a training camp in Japan, the Singapore national football team will take on Philippines in Cebu tomorrow in preparation for the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup.
The city seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that their first international game will go as smoothly as possible, as they have ramped up preparations to get the venue ready.
The hosts, who reached the semi-finals of the 2012 AFF Cup, had defeated Singapore 2-0 just a few months ago in a friendly at the Jurong West Stadium and will look for a repeat victory against the Lions.
Midfield maestro Stephan Schrock was the mastermind behind that victory, which was the Azkals' first since 1972, although the TSG Hoffenheim player will not be playing tomorrow. His fellow Europe-based players like first-choice goalkeeper Neil Etheridge (Bristol Rovers, on-loan from Fulham), Jerry Lucena (Esbjerg fB), Manuel Ott (FC Ingolstadt 04), Dennis Cagara (Karlsruher SC), Roland Müller (MSV Duisburg) and Paul Mulders (ADO Den Haag) are also not included in the squad.
However, the talismanic Younghusband brothers will be available, with striker Philip and midfielder James returning to the Philippines fold after having had a run-in with the national team set-up during the Peace Cup in September.
Philippines coach Hans Michael Weiss has claimed the Loyola Meralco Sparks duo are "fully fit" and in "a high competitive level", and Singapore will do well to keep an eye on the former Chelsea youth trainees.
Singapore are at near full-strength, with the exception of full-back Juma'at Jantan who has returned home due to a hamstring injury. Having brought an initial 35-man squad along though, coach Radojko Avramovic will surely not be short on options and will have the chance to further experiment with newer faces.
The Lions will still likely be dependent on the likes of evergreen striker Aleksandar Duric, as well as hardman Mustafic Fahrudin, but skipper Shahril Ishak feels that the blend of youth and experience will serve the team well.
Included in the squad are players like 21-year-old defender Safuwan Baharudin and 22-year-old goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, both of whom were key figures in the LionsXII's recent debut season in the Malaysia Super League and Malaysia Cup, and Shahril is confident of a good showing at the AFF Cup.
With the Lions keen to avenge that 2-0 defeat in front of what is likely to be a capacity Philippines crowd, this match should make for good entertainment.