Football: Goalkeeper Syazwan blames himself for Young Lions' loss to Japan

Football: Goalkeeper Syazwan blames himself for Young Lions' loss to Japan
Shakir Hamzah (right) tugging Japanese's player Suzuki Musahi from scoring and goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari preparing a safe from the shot during the friendly match between Singapore Under-23 and Japan U-22 at Jalan Besar Stadium on 14 February 2015.

Goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari has always been vocal, shouting at and organising his teammates in front of him.

But last Saturday, the 23-year-old was quiet as goal after goal went past him in the Singapore Under-23 team's 8-1 friendly defeat by the Japan U-22 team.

After training at the Serangoon Stadium yesterday, Syazwan said: "I am still haunted by it. I feel that four of the goals were because of my mistakes."

But he knows that he has to pick himself up, with the chance to make amends against Syria's U-23 team at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday.

While Syazwan, Shakir Hamzah, Shahfiq Ghani and Sahil Suhaimi have grown as players under the leadership of seniors Hariss Harun, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan in the national team, Shakir and Co find themselves navigating unfamiliar territory as leaders in the Young Lions side gunning for gold at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June.

Other than defensive lapses, Aide Iskandar's charges collectively let their heads drop after the second goal last Saturday, with players struggling to push each other on.

Former national captain Aide said: "I've spoken to the senior players about taking on leadership roles. They are more experienced and must be counted on when the going gets tough.

"That said, this kind of leadership cannot be built in one day, but over more games and responsibilities in the team."

Captain Shakir, normally more reserved than his national teammates, knows he will have to step out of his shell to be a commander on the field.

The 22-year-old said: "I am trying to learn from coach Aide and coach Mani (S Subramani, assistant coach), as well as the senior players I've played with.

"I am perfectly fine exchanging words with opponents on the field. But I still feel that I am an equal among my teammates and not above them, but I have to learn to be more vocal."

KEEPING FAITH

Despite the hammering last Saturday, Aide is keeping faith with his training squad of 43, which he will cut to 35 by the end of next month.

The squad will be reduced to 30 by end-April, before embarking on their final SEA Games preparations in an overseas training tour.

But Aide is also keeping his options open and waiting for players from Richard Bok's U-22 side, as well as those from other S.League clubs, to impress him. For the bulk of the team, who will play in the S.League under Aide from next month, Saturday's game will be a chance to erase the pain of the Japan game.

Aide has not set any targets for them in that tie, other than an improved showing from all players.

But, with a steely determination, Shakir said: "Definitely not an 8-1 loss again. No more. We are extra motivated now and will definitely do better.

"We want to go for a win."


This article was first published on February 18, 2015.
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