SINGAPORE: The Singapore Under-23 national team are raring to prove themselves worthy of a place in the Asian Games, even if a victory over Myanmar on Wednesday (Jun 20) could eventually prove futile.
The game, which will be played at Bishan Stadium at 8pm, is the only chance for the team to impress the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and justify their inclusion in the Asian Games.
Irfan Fandi, the Singapore team's 21-year-old captain, said: "I expect everybody to play their best. There's no excuses to be off-form, because these are the players that were chosen - the best U-23 players in Singapore - so we have to give our best on Wednesday, including myself."
Zulfadhmi Suzliman acknowledged that Myanmar are tough opponents - the squad made the U-20 World Cup in 2015 - but he believes that the Singapore team have a "desire to win".
"I can see the boys are working hard, and are willing to go all out ... it's not going to be an easy game, and we will definitely need to work as a team. We really need this win," the 22-year-old forward said.
The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) nomination for the team to compete in the Asian Games was rejected last month, as the results put forward by the FAS did not meet SNOC's criteria.
To meet the selection criteria and be included in the Singapore contingent, the team have to match the top-six result at a previous Asian Games, or beat opponents ranked at least sixth in Asia.
Prior to the announcement, the Singapore U-23's only result this year was a 3-0 friendly defeat to Indonesia in March.
The FAS subsequently told Channel NewsAsia earlier this month that they were struggling to find an opponent because of a lack of dates. The match against Myanmar was only announced last Wednesday.
While Myanmar are ranked 27th in the region, and they also did not compete in the last Asian Games in 2014, the FAS believes that the current Myanmar squad is one of the best in the region.
Apart from their World Cup qualification, they also reached the 2014 Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship semi-finals.
TEAM HINDERED BY CONSTRAINTS
Still, the Singapore camp's preparation hasn't been the best one.
The full squad will have just one training session together on Tuesday due to their exertions in the Singapore Premier League.
Coach Fandi Ahmad admitted that it will be a "very big task" for them.
"Everybody is excited to play in an international game but the players haven't trained much together. It will be all about the desire ... We (the coaches) have to try and make them play as hard as they can, to show they are good enough to play football and good enough to represent the country," he said.
Fandi admitted that he is also wary of putting too much pressure on his young players.
"I won't tell them this is a qualifier. I will say 'do your best, this is your country, it's an honour and you have to give your best'. It's all about the mentality they display," he said.
"Playing in the Asian Games will help them to gain more experience, and it's good to gain exposure, but we can only do it with preparation."