A tough title defence for Lions

A tough title defence for Lions
TWIN TOWERS: Defenders Safuwan Baharudin (far left) and Baihakki Khaizan (left) will be facing formidable opposition.

AFF SUZUKI CUP

They had to dig deep to win two years ago, and Singapore's mission to defend their ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup title this year will be no walk in the park, with the road out of the opening group stages already filled with potential pitfalls.

The tournament will be held from Nov 22 to Dec 20 and Singapore will co-host the group stages with Vietnam.

In yesterday's draw in Hanoi, the Lions were drawn in Group B, and will face three-time winners Thailand, Causeway rivals Malaysia and the winners of the qualifying tournament (held in October featuring Timor Leste, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Myanmar).

With the Radojko Avramovic-led Myanmar touted as favourites to win the qualifiers, Safuwan Baharudin, who was watching the draw "live" from a hotel in Bahrain where he is on duty with the national Under-23 side, simply said: "Group of Death."

Safuwan's defensive partner, Baihakki Khaizan, acknowledged the arduous task that lies ahead.

"It's a tough draw. We respect the teams in our group, but we can focus only on our preparations," he told The New Paper.

"We have shown in the past that we are not an individual bunch, but we can win it as a team."

Both Safuwan and Baihakki were key figures as former Singapore coach Avramovic led the Lions to glory in 2012, when they defeated Thailand over the two legs of the final.

The win meant Singapore became the first nation to win ASEAN's most prestigious football tournament four times (1998, 2004, 2007 and 2012)

NEW HOME

The Singapore team won the first leg 3-1 at the Jalan Besar Stadium (they lost the second tie in Bangkok 1-0), but will now be playing their matches at the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium at Kallang.

Baihakki is already looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the National Stadium with the roar of a huge home crowd behind the Lions.

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