Other teams have caught up with Singapore, says Bok

When the draw was made for the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-23 Championship qualifiers last December, many thought that Singapore got themselves a relatively easy group.

Yesterday, however, the Under-22 side were bundled out of the group without a single win, after a 2-2 draw with their Mongolian counterparts in Vientiane, Laos.

The draw, coupled with a 0-0 draw against the hosts and a 0-5 rout by China, meant that Richard Bok's side failed to meet his target of six points from the group games.

And the former Singapore Armed Forces FC tactician did not mince his words after the match, saying the Singapore football is in danger of digressing.

"I am disappointed. We wanted six points and here we are with two," he told The Straits Times.

"If we can't meet the targets then I am afraid there are no positives to talk about.

"We have become stagnant and other teams in the region have caught up with us.

"Like it or not, that is the fact."

The 45-year-old had targeted wins against Mongolia and Laos. After all, Mongolia's senior team are a mere No. 195 in the Fifa world rankings, while Laos are at No. 170. Singapore, meanwhile, are placed at No. 153.

The Mongolia U-22s were also smarting after a 0-7 thrashing by Laos U-22s, but shockingly took the lead against Singapore in the eighth minute.

Irfan Fandi, starting at centre-back, miscued his clearance from a corner and midfielder Mungunshagai Tsogtbaatar diverted the loose ball into the net for the opening goal.

Irfan made amends for his earlier error in the 19th minute, however, as he sent a strong header into the net off a corner to make it 1-1.

While Singapore dominated possession, the Mongolians struck again on the stroke of half-time.

Purevdorj Erdenebat received the ball unmarked at the far post, and had all the time in the world before firing his shot past goalkeeper Rudy Khairullah.

Irfan was then thrust forward into attack in the second half, and the move paid dividends in the 58th minute.

Latching onto a free-kick, he slotted the ball into the net for the equaliser, but it was as good as it got for the Singapore U-22s.


This article was first published on April 1, 2015.
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