HANOI: A tough-tackling midfielder in his heyday, Young Lions head coach Nazri Nasir is no stranger to a battle.
And he had a straightforward message for his charges prior to a must-win Group B fixture with Cambodia on Wednesday.
Fight. For themselves, for the country and for everybody back home.
"(I wanted them to have) a never-say-die attitude. We go for every ball, challenge for every ball, tackle (for) every ball," he told reporters at a post-match press conference.
"I told them not to throw the towel away, we are still going to fight, we are not going to raise the white flag."
And on Wednesday (May 11), his team responded by keeping their flagging hopes of a SEA Games medal alive after a 1-0 victory over Cambodia in a must-win game.
“They showed a lot of character today. They didn’t give up and were hungry to get the result, focused for 90 minutes,” said Nazri.
After a 2-2 draw with Laos and a 5-0 trouncing by Thailand in their first two games, the Young Lions were feeling the heat.
And despite head coach Nazri ringing in a number of changes, Cambodia, who had beaten Laos 4-1, had the upper hand early on.
But in front of a near 12,000-strong crowd, it was Singapore who almost found themselves a goal up in the 17th minute.
An Irfan Najeeb through ball found Glenn Kweh, who cut in from the right but his shot was saved by Cambodian goalkeeper Hul Kimhuy. From the rebound, Nicky Melvin Singh fired wide.
Cambodia came closer minutes later as they countered superbly after a Singapore corner. Sieng Chanthea beat a number of defenders but could not apply the finishing touch with just Zaiful Nizam to beat.
On an attacking foray soon after, defender Nur Adam Abdullah would fire in a low drive that was pushed wide by Kimhuy.
Singapore then drew first blood in the 36th minute.
Brilliant interplay between midfielder Shah Shahiran and Saifullah Akbar saw the diminutive Shah clip a tantalising ball into the box for Saifullah to nod home.
And Shah should have doubled Singapore's lead in the dying embers of the first half after he shot wide from a pin-point cross from Kweh.
After the interval, Cambodia came inches from equalising as defender Choun Chanchav's header came back off the post in the 60th minute.
A golden chance for Singapore to kill off the game came in the 75th minute, but substitute Khairin Nadim missed with the goal gaping after a lung-bursting run and cross from Ryhan Stewart.
The palm of Zaiful would keep Singapore ahead after a brilliant one-handed save and the Young Lions would cling on for victory.
The result means that Singapore top Group B for the time being with four points after three games. Thailand (two games played) and Malaysia (one game) have three points each.
However, they will still need results to go their way to stand any chance of moving on to the next round.
If Thailand and Malaysia beat both Laos and Cambodia, Singapore will be eliminated.
The Young Lions will face Malaysia in their last group stage game on Saturday.