Stepping stone

Stepping stone
OUCH: Arsenal’s Mathieu Flamini (right) tackling Singapore Selection XI’s Khairul Amri in Wednesday’s 4-0 win for the Gunners.
PHOTO: AFP

They performed admirably against their illustrious opponents to trail by just one goal at half-time during Wednesday's Barclays Asia Trophy clash with Arsenal.

Then, aided by a couple of contentious penalties, the Gunners turned on the style to ultimately claim a 4-0 win, although manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for the hosts.

Tonight, the Singapore Selection XI finish off their campaign at the 55,000-seater National Stadium, where they face a Stoke City team in the third-placing match.

The task will be to prove once again that they can match one of England's top clubs.

But Singapore Selection coach V Sundramoorthy believes the experience will also benefit his local players, as they look to continue their excellent start to the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in September.

Apart from the Singapore Selection's four foreigners, 16 of their 19 locals were also in the Lions squad that achieved a monumental 0-0 draw with Japan last month, which followed a convincing 4-0 win over Cambodia in their opening qualifier.

"This tournament provides a platform for the Singapore players to prepare for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers," he told The New Paper at the Grand Hyatt Singapore yesterday.

"Playing such high-intensity games in such an atmosphere will help them get ready for Sept 3, when the national team take on Syria.

"I think it's very important because we have a chance (of getting a result).

"No one expects us to win (against Stoke) but anything is possible in football… there's no reason why we can't go out there and upset the odds.

"Whatever happens, you can expect a good performance from the boys."

Having had a first-hand experience of Arsenal's famous passing style, Sundram now expects a different kind of challenge against the Potters.

He said: "They are physical, full of hard running and good in set-pieces, and we expect a tough game.

"Against Arsenal, I thought we did well building up from defence to midfield. But, at times, we didn't deliver the final pass well when the players made the runs in the attacking third.

"Hopefully, against Stoke, that will come and we might even score a goal."

SERIOUS STOKE

Meanwhile, Stoke manager Mark Hughes insisted that his team would be taking the match very seriously as they continue to build towards the new season, which starts on Aug 8.

The Welshman said: "I thought, in the opening period (against Arsenal), the Singapore Selection were very bright in their movements, technically very good and showed a good understanding of what they were trying to achieve.

"They showed they want to prove they deserve their place among us... we accept that and they performed very well."

Hughes confirmed that captain Ryan Shawcross would almost certainly miss out due to a minor injury worry, but veteran goalkeeper Shay Given would feature after completing his move from Aston Villa.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 18, 2015.
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