Final chance for Singapore to ‘fine-tune’ before SEA games

Billed as a charity fund-raiser, the Singapore Under-23s are looking to end their final preparations positively against a spirited Philippines side before they depart for Myanmar
The Singapore Under-23 team will be eager to face their Philippines counterparts in their final friendly match on Sunday evening at Hougang Stadium before departing for Myanmar for the upcoming SEA Games.

The game has been billed as a charity match to raise funds for victims of the recent Typhoon Haiyan disaster and despite the importance of the game to both teams, both sets of coaches were more than happy to support such a cause.

“This match will be a good match for us to fine-tune before we leave for Myanmar,” Singapore coach Aide Iskandar said.

“I also think it’s a good initiative for both teams to actually do a little bit of charity and fund raising, and we do hope fans will come down and support this initiative because both teams would like to inform those people in Philippines to tell them that they are not alone.

"If we can do our part to put a smile on their faces, we’ll definitely be more than happy to do so.”

Philippines head coach Leigh Manson echoed Aide’s sentiments.

“The Filipino people are a very strong nation and they’ve picked themselves up very quickly,” the Scot said.

“The players are the same. They’ve shown that they are professional. Yesterday’s training session was a very, very good session. I think the players want to use this to emphasise that life goes on and hopefully we can put a smile regardless of the result.

“If we can put in a good performance and help the people back at home, that would be the most important thing.”

There is no discounting the importance of the game for both sides, however.

In particular, Philippines captain Jason de Jong is keen to show what the SEA Games will be missing after the country was surprisingly pulled out of the competition.

“At the moment, we’re ranked number one in Southeast Asia and we’re not even able to send an Under-23 squad to the SEA Games and that says enough,” de Jong said.

“It’s a charity game, but we want to prove a point, get out there and give Singapore a good fight.”

As for Singapore, the match will serve as a final opportunity to put what they have been doing in training into practice, especially in the attacking third - an aspect Aide identified as needing improvement after the 1-0 victory in the friendly game against Cambodia last week.

“We have been working a lot on that aspect and the response is good,” the former Singapore captain said.

“The boys look sharp and we had extra training sessions as well - we had two training sessions on Friday.

“Shahfiq [Ghani] has openly declared that he wants to score five goals in the SEA Games. That shows that he has that desire to score goals.

“But I’m not going to put a lot of pressure on the players. The goals will come, we have the quality and I think Hariss [Harun] will lead the team well and I’m very confident that he’ll do a good job with this team on the pitch."

When asked if Singapore will be aiming to get a result for tomorrow’s match, Aide played it cool.

“It doesn’t matter if they score or don’t score," he remarked.

“What’s most important is that they do well in the competition. Tomorrow I’m just hoping that those players that play will not get any injuries, that’s the most important thing.”

Winger Gabriel Quak has begun light training, but is still some time away from making his return to the first team. A few of the other players are also still recovering from dengue fever.

Aide will cut his squad to 22 players after tomorrow’s game before they depart for Myanmar on December 3.