Kallang close to full house

Kallang close to full house
Seating venue at the newly-built Singapore National Stadium.

SINGAPORE - Next Tuesday's football match is set to be the biggest the National Stadium has ever hosted - no mean feat considering that English Premier League giants Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as the national teams of Uruguay and Denmark, had served up kicks at the iconic Kallang venue in the past.

Still, the prospects of seeing Neymar spearheading Brazil's challenge against Asian heavyweights Japan - as both countries bid to revive their fortunes after a disappointing World Cup outing - have prompted fans to snap up more than 45,000 tickets for the glamour friendly.

The 55,000-seater facility is on track for its first sell-out since opening in June as the centrepiece of a new $1.33 billion Sports Hub.

It is understood that over 250 reporters and photographers have signed up to cover the clash - more than double that for the visit of Italian Serie A champions Juventus - against a Singapore selection - in August.

A sizeable Japanese contingent are expected in the stands to show support for new coach Javier Aguirre, who has been tasked with defending their Asian Cup title in Australia next year.

Barcelona maestro Neymar is in line to lead the Selecao, who have turned to former captain Dunga to steer them back to World Cup glory, as he did as a player back in 1994.

Bringing their best available squad, the five-time world champions will face arch-rivals Argentina in Beijing on Saturday before taking on the Blue Samurai - who failed to get out of the group phase in the World Cup - here three days later.

The four-time Asian champions will be headlined by Europe-based stars Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Keisuke Honda (AC Milan) and Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan).

Fans are hoping to get an early preview of scintillating samba action as Neymar teams up with recalled stars Kaka, Robinho and Philippe Coutinho.

Civil servant Mohd Hakim, 34, said: "This won't be a normal friendly because all the players will want to impress Dunga and prove that the 1-7 loss to Germany (in the World Cup semi-finals) was a one-off."

Retiree Lim Chin Wei, 63, noted: "It's been a long time since Singapore has hosted a match between high-quality opponents who are not in holiday mode."

This is the first time since 1991 that two top teams will square off at the National Stadium. Then, English giants Arsenal defeated Liverpool in a penalty shootout to win the now-defunct Caltex Cup.

While fellow British outfits like Manchester United, Newcastle United and Glasgow Celtic have played at the venue in the past, they were more in exhibition mode as they cruised to resounding victories over the Singapore national team or a local selection.

Tuesday's line-ups add to the long list of big names who have starred at the Grand Old Dame since it opened in 1973. They include EPL luminaries Ian Rush, David Beckham and Tony Adams.

Local fans will also remember lending their Kallang Roar to the many duels at the Malaysia Cup and ASEAN levels along the way.

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