Suzuki cup 'tough': Shahril

Suzuki cup 'tough': Shahril
National football player Faris Ramli and Lions captain Shahril Ishak (right) in their new Singapore National Team Kit (NTK). The Lions will don their new jerseys when they defend their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup trophy at the National Stadium in November 2014.

They are the defending champions, and have won the ASEAN football title a record four times.

However, Singapore captain Shahril Ishak admits that his side face an uphill battle to retain the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup, which begins later this month.

The Lions are placed in a tough Group B alongside Asian Games semi-finalists Thailand, Myanmar - led by ex-Lions coach Raddy Avramovic - and causeway rivals Malaysia.

With only one win in six international matches this year, Shahril believes that the odds are against Singapore winning a fifth ASEAN title.

Speaking at a Nike event to launch the new national team kit, the 30-year-old said: "It will be very tough for us. We know Thailand and Malaysia will be strong, and Raddy knows every Singapore player, so it's tough to say.

"Of course we want to retain the trophy, but for now we hope to reach the semi-finals.

"The mood is really serious among the players. We have a good mix of experienced and young players, and I know come the tournament, everyone will be fully motivated to do well."

The Lions' only victory this year came against Papua New Guinea, whom they beat 2-1 at Hougang Stadium. In the other five matches, they drew twice and lost three times.

The troubled pitch at the 55,000-seat National Stadium also means that the team have been unable to familiarise themselves with their new den.

Asked if all these factors affected the team's preparation, Shahril said: "Not at all. What's more important is we gel as a team and work together well. It doesn't matter where we play."

If anything, the Lions can seek solace from their title-winning team of 2012.

Leading up to the competition, the team played 11 matches and won only thrice. Yet they managed to find their form in the competition, beating Malaysia and Thailand en route to their fourth ASEAN title.

With ticket prices being pitched as low as $8, the playmaker is hoping for a large turnout at the group matches, as he believes the team will thrive on the support of their fans.

"It's every footballer's dream to play in front of their home fans in a big stadium," said Shahril, who is signed to Johor Darul Ta'zim II in the Malaysia Premier League.

"We have some good young players, who are talented and fearless, and they are eager to show why they deserve a place." One such player is Faris Ramli, who modelled the new kits alongside his captain yesterday.

"When you don the national jersey you need to step up," said Faris. "There's a bit of pressure, but it keeps us on our toes."

The Lions begin their title defence on Nov 23 against Thailand, who are coached by former S-League striker Kiatisuk Senamuang, at the National Stadium.

They travel to Bahrain for a friendly this Friday, with further warm-up matches against Cambodia and Laos being lined up.

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 4, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.