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Inspired by World Cup underdogs, Singapore Lions hunt for fifth regional title

It has been a decade since Singapore last won the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) trophy.

Inspired by World Cup underdogs, Singapore Lions hunt for fifth regional title
The Lions will be led by captain Hariss Harun (front in red), seen here challenging for the ball in last year's semi-final with Indonesia. (Photo: CNA/Matthew Mohan)

SINGAPORE: As the Lions kick off their bid for regional football glory, they are taking inspiration from the performance of underdogs in the recently concluded FIFA World Cup.

The Singapore national football team will face Myanmar on Saturday (Dec 24), in an ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup group also consisting of Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“We have looked at the underdogs in the World Cup and we've taken motivation from teams like Morocco. You saw how far they could go. So, you know, we want to be together as a team and show strength in togetherness,” said defender Ryhan Stewart.

In the recent World Cup, Morocco became the first African semi-finalists in the tournament’s history, claiming the scalp of European giants Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way.

The 22-year-old Stewart, who plays for Thai League 2 club Chiangmai, is among the youngsters expected to step up, with the team missing key players going into the competition.


The Lions will go in search of a fifth regional title a little short in attacking options, but are hoping the home fans at Jalan Besar Stadium will give them an extra boost.

The home support buoyed them to an inspired semi-final finish last year, when they stretched eventual runners-up Indonesia to the end, despite red cards and refereeing decisions going against them.

This time, the Lions will be without top scorer Ikhsan Fandi, playmaker Adam Swandi and veteran defender Safuwan Baharuddin, due to injuries. Forward Taufik Suparno also dropped out for personal reasons.

The Lions will be without top scorer Ikhsan Fandi due to injury. (Photo: CNA/Matthew Mohan)

Despite the challenges, coach Takayuki Nishigaya, appointed in April this year, believes his players can rise above the odds.

"I totally understand this tournament is very important for Singaporeans. So I would like to dedicate everything I have for the country,” he said.

He added that this is the time for the team’s youngsters to step up and become key players for the country. 

The team's young roster includes Stewart and Singapore Premier League (SPL) Young Player of the Year Ilhan Fandi, who recently scored a move to Belgian First Division B club Deinze.


It has been a decade since Singapore last won the AFF Championship, beating Thailand 3-2 over two legs back in 2012.

As they head into battle this time, the youngsters will be looking to stalwarts such as captain Hariss Harun, midfielder Shahdan Sulaiman and goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, for guidance.

Singapore last won the AFF Championship back in 2012. (Photo: AFP/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

The 38-year-old Hassan has won the tournament twice, but is hungry for a third winner’s medal in his record ninth outing.

"We have to be at our best. The young players, as well, have to come out and show their presence on the field,” said the veteran goalkeeper, who will move from Lion City Sailors FC to Albirex Niigata for the 2023 SPL season.

“We go into every game thinking we can win the match and of course, number one (target) is to win the competition.”

Catch all the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 action for FREE, live and on demand at
Source: CNA/fk(ja)


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