Singapore’s Under-23s hit a stumbling block in their Japan tour with a 2-1 loss to Japan Football League side Azul Claro Suruga Numazu on Thursday morning.
Preparing for next month’s SEA Games with a nine day camp in the country’s Shizuoka prefecture, Aide Iksandar’s Young Lions failed to come back from semi-professional side Azul Claro’s early two-goal lead, despite reducing the margin to a single goal before half time.
24 of the 25-man squad were used in the match, with Pravin Gunasegaran out through injury. Those on the bench watched their team mates concede two goals within the first two minutes of the match before Irfan Fandi closed the gap with a header in the 41st minute.
“[Singapore’s] players started slowly probably because of the climate and timing of the game in the morning,” said Azul Claro coach Ken Yoshida, “and we took advantage with two quick goals.
“However, once they settled down, it was a very good game with an even battle in midfield.”
Aide remained confident that his side were in good stead through their preparations for the SEA Games, where they will face the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Myanmar in the group stage.
“We let in two early goals because we did not settle in quickly,” he said in reflection of the match.
“But we recovered after that and I was pleased to see the team putting into practice what we had been trying out at centralised training last week. Irfan [Fandi] pulled back a deserved goal for us, and we could have scored a couple more goals in a very positive second-half.”
Having won bronze at three of the last four SEA games, the Young Lions have recently turned in concerning performances for fans of the national side, while their failure to qualify for next year’s AFC U-23 Championship has drawn criticism.
Aide’s Courts Young Lions, an U-23 select side playing in Singapore’s S-League consisting of many of the same players as his national side, have also been struggling and currently lie in second-to-last place with just one win and one draw from seven matches.
“We will be using all these matches to try out tactics and formations,” said Aide of his training camp, “and to give every player opportunities to prove that they are deserving of a place in the finalised SEA Games squad.
“Although I am 95 percent sure of who will be in my starting lineup, we still want to ensure we get the best out of everyone.
“So they had better use all these playing opportunities to convince the coaching team not just of their place in the final 20[-man squad], but of their place in the first XI.”
The Young Lions will play one more match in Japan, facing university side Shizuoka Sangyo on Saturday before returning to Singapore on Sunday.