Aide says S'pore 'extra' motivated for Malaysia game

Aide says S'pore 'extra' motivated for Malaysia game

Usually calm, composed and slightly quixotic in his public remarks, Aide Iskandar on Friday gave a rare glimpse of the no-nonsense defender he once was.

Peeved at Malaysia counterpart Ong Kim Swee's comments from last week that the Young Lions "defend for 24 hours", the Singapore coach responded in kind to their opponents in today's SEA Games bronze-medal match.

"We are not 7-Eleven," the 38-year-old said wryly, referring to the 24-hour convenience store.

"We play good football, everybody knows we play to our strengths - if we don't attack, then how did we score five goals in this tournament?"

Singapore had the second-lowest number of goals among the four semi-finalists. Malaysia led the way with 10, Thailand had nine while Indonesia brought up the rear with just four.

Aide added that his troops have "extra motivation" against Malaysia who are "not unbeatable" and reeling from a shock penalty shoot-out loss to Indonesia in the semi-finals.

Ong's remarks came after the two-time defending champions struggled to break Singapore down and needed a last-minute goal to snatch a 1-1 draw in a group clash last Sunday.

The stakes are even higher on Saturday, for one side will return home empty-handed.

After the Indonesia tie, Ong likened the atmosphere in Malaysia's dressing room to a funeral, blaming pre-tournament injuries to seven regulars for their failure to reach the final.

He added: "We have to re-group and re-energise because we cannot afford to lose to Singapore, especially with a medal on the line." Aide himself looks likely to ring the changes as the Young Lions aim to repeat their bronze showing in 2009.

Midfielder Izzdin Shafiq could be recalled in favour of misfiring forward Shahfiq Ghani while back-up wingers Iqbal Hussain and Gabriel Quak may also get extended playing time.

According to Aide, several players are hurting physically and emotionally after going down 0-1 to Thailand in the semi-finals.

Perhaps no one has come in for more criticism from fans than Shahfiq, who has yet to find the mark here while strike partner Sahil Suhaimi has scored three times.

But Aide was quick to defend the 21-year-old who, he said, is one of the brightest football talents in Singapore.

He added: "We have to be tactful in how we manage him - things haven't gone his way and he himself knows that.

"He and Sahil didn't get enough matches to play together in the build-up but, in the years to come, they will be a potent strikeforce." No Singapore players were made available for interviews on Friday, though they took to social media to share their thoughts.

Right-back Madhu Mohana - who conceded the winning penalty on Thursday - tweeted that the team need to "keep our heads up and work harder" after giving their all against the technically superior Thais.

Also on Twitter, Quak noted that had the team converted their chances and defeated Thailand, they would have gone on to claim the gold.

After missing a close-range header in that match, defender Afiq Yunos posted cryptically on Facebook: "Bring me the time machine." But for Aide, it is all about looking forward.

He said: "We want to end on a high note. They don't come any better than beating Malaysia."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


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