Ahead of yesterday's daunting clash against defending champions North Korea in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 qualifiers, Singapore's U-15 coach V. Selvaraj wanted his team to improve after Wednesday's 0-5 loss to Thailand.
And he was delighted by his young charges' performance last night, even though they lost 0-3 at Jalan Besar Stadium.
He said: "This is the best they have shown. There was a lot of heart and they showed a lot of courage."
In contrast, North Korea coach Kim Yong Hun was grim. He said: "We could not press Singapore much. Their teamwork and individual tactics were very good today."
Many fans had expected a barrage of goals from the formidable North Koreans, who are known for their superior strength and fitness. After all, they had thrashed Cambodia 7-0 in their previous game.
Their line-up featured 15 players from last year's AFC U-14 tournament, where they were runners-up.
Yet, there was little separating the two sides yesterday.
In the first half, Singapore's defence was solid, only allowing the Koreans to score once, via a direct free kick by right-back Yun Min. Midfielder Kye Tam added another goal in the 70th minute, and Ri Song Jin sealed the win just before the final whistle.
Selvaraj said: "We defended well and we fought very hard. We have definitely improved."
In the other Group H match yesterday, Thailand beat Cambodia 1-0. Thailand will face North Korea tomorrow for a guaranteed spot in the finals in India next September. Singapore will play Cambodia.
This article was first published on September 5, 2015.
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