SINGAPORE: Head coach for the Singapore U-23 football team Richard Tardy has set a semi-final objective for his team for the upcoming SEA Games in August.
In a media conference after a 1-0 victory in a friendly game against the India U-23s on Monday evening (Jul 12), Tardy quipped that he was certainly not going to travel with the team to Kuala Lumpur for a vacation.
“For the SEA Games, we want to be in the last four. It is going to be difficult … I don’t say that it is going to be easy,” said the Frenchman.
During the last edition of the tournament, held in Singapore in 2015, the team failed to qualify past the group stage and then-head coach Aide Iskandar stepped down.
This time, Singapore’s chances of qualifying for the last four at the biennial Games in 2017 received a boost after being drawn in Group A alongside hosts Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos.
But Tardy has rubbished claims that Singapore were drawn in an “easy group”.
He explained that Malaysia are going to be dangerous as they are the host nation while Myanmar and Laos are both tougher teams to beat than Vietnam and Cambodia, who are both drawn in the other group.
Singapore lost to Myanmar 1-2 in the 2015 edition and will want to better that result next month.
BUOYED BY VICTORY OVER INDIA
The team’s win over India on Monday at Choa Chu Kang stadium gave the team a much-needed boost in their SEA Games preparations.
The home side successfully avenged a 0-1 loss to the same opponents in a reverse fixture last Sunday (Jul 9) with the help of a superb display from centre forward Ikhsan Fandi.
Ikhsan – son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad – converted a penalty in the 50th minute, dispatching the spot kick confidently off the bar.
The 18-year-old helped win the penalty after fine hold-up play, and grabbed the ball immediately after his teammate Pashla Anugurah was fouled needlessly in the penalty box.
Tardy reserved special praise for Ikhsan, who is currently serving national service and had been on duty earlier, before the game.
“He was working today but he still showed good spirit,” said Tardy. He added that he had not even been sure if he could include Ikhsan in the line-up till late, due to fatigue.
The away side caused problems in the opening half, with towering forward Manvir Singh dominating aerial battles with Singapore defenders.
But right back Darren Teh and centre back Lionel Tan held firm as Singapore kept a thoroughly deserved clean sheet.
Commenting on his side’s overall performance, Tardy said: “They showed energy. They first tried to score and (after scoring) they tried to keep the result.”
Ikhsan’s elder brother, Irfan, played in the first fixture on Sunday but was unable to play on Wednesday due to slight injury.
Irfan, together with fellow key player Adam Swandi, are favourites to start at the SEA Games but they were not picked for this latest friendly against India due to their injuries.
Despite winning four AFF Suzuki Cup trophies, Singapore has never clinched a gold medal for football in the SEA Games.
The team’s last football medal was in 2013 in Myanmar, when a Hariss Harun brace led Singapore to a 2-1 win over Malaysia, to clinch the bronze medal.
Before they turn their attention to the SEA Games however, Tardy wants his side to focus on the upcoming Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship qualifiers in Yangon later this month.