RIYADH: Singapore returned to World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying action after more than 18 months on Thursday (Jun 3) with a 4-0 loss to Palestine.
The second round of joint qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China has resumed after a lengthy delay caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Palestine raced to a three-nil lead in the first half at the King Fahd International Stadium, prompting Singapore head coach Tatsuma Yoshida to make a double substitution at the break. But he admitted his match decisions had not gone the way he wanted.
“The boys tried, but in the first half, they were a bit nervous,” he said after the match.
“I am really disappointed (as) they can do more (and) that we could not show our full potential. I think if we played to our potential, maybe the result would be changed … I am very sorry for the Singapore fans.
“I feel big disappointment, big pain … But it’s not on (the players). It’s because of my management and it’s on me.”
The three goals Palestine were scored in a span of about 10 minutes and included two penalties by Tamer Seyam either side of an Oday Dabbagh strike. Yaser Hamed completed the scoresheet in the closing minutes of the game.
The result means Palestine overtake Singapore in the Group D standings on goal difference, having played a game more.
The match saw the international debuts of Ilhan Fandi and Saifullah Akbar, while Lions stalwart Baihakki Khaizan notched his 138th Singapore appearance, taking him to joint second on the country’s list of most-capped players.
The Lions sit fourth out of five teams in Group D after six games. Their remaining ties in the group are against Uzbekistan on Jun 7 (kick-off at 2am on Jun 8, Singapore time) and Saudi Arabia on Jun 11 (kick-off at 2am on Jun 12, Singapore time).
Saudi Arabia lead Group D on 11 points with Uzbekistan in second on nine. The sides have played five games apiece.
All remaining Group D matches are being played in the Saudi capital.
The top team of each of the eight second-round groups and the four best runners-up will progress to the third round of 2022 World Cup qualifying. They will also qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup.
The remaining teams will continue to compete for places at the 2023 Asian Cup in subsequent rounds of qualifiers.
Singapore kicked off their campaign for Qatar 2022 and China 2023 in September 2019, picking up seven points from five games before qualifying was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elsewhere in Asian qualifying on Thursday, the United Arab Emirates beat Malaysia 4-0, Australia won 3-0 against Kuwait and Iran picked up a 3-1 victory over Hong Kong.
Bahrain drubbed Cambodia 8-0 and Nepal beat Taiwan 2-0 while Qatar, who have already qualified for the 2022 World Cup as hosts, edged out India 1-0.
Thailand and Indonesia played out a 2-2 draw, with Bangladesh and Afghanistan also sharing the points in a tie that finished 1-1.