¡¡¡¡Lions coach Tatsuma Yoshida hinted at a change in tactics and personnel for tomorrow morning’s (Singapore time) tie against Uzbekistan as defender Baihakki Khaizan said the players have a point to prove after the dismal 4-0 defeat by Palestine on Friday morning.
¡¡¡¡The match at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, which was Singapore’s first after an 18-month hiatus due to Covid-19’s disruption, saw the Lions sink to their worst competitive loss since another 4-0 reverse by Syria in November 2013.
¡¡¡¡WORLD CUP QUALIFIER ASIAN ZONE, GROUP D
¡¡¡¡Yoshida’s charges conceded three goals in the first 30 minutes in Friday’s defeat, which dealt a huge blow to their hopes of finishing second in the group.
¡¡¡¡The Japanese tactician looks set to ring the changes ahead of their next game at the same venue against the second-placed Uzbeks, who are 86th in the Fifa standings, 73 rungs above the 159-ranked Lions.
¡¡¡¡He said via a phone interview from Saudi Arabia yesterday: “Against Palestine, we didn’t show our true potential. We didn’t play aggressively…
¡¡¡¡”Uzbekistan, of course, are stronger than Palestine and the style of play is more modern and faster…
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¡¡¡¡”We need a different mindset and different strategy. Maybe some players will be changed.”
¡¡¡¡That could mean a shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a system with three centre-backs, as Yoshida did when he brought on Baihakki for attacker Gabriel Quak at half-time on Friday.
¡¡¡¡The 37-year-old defender with 138 caps is the most experienced player in a Lions squad missing skipper Hariss Harun, centre-back Safuwan Baharudin and chief striker Ikhsan Fandi.
¡¡¡¡He was a vocal presence in the team’s huddle ahead of the second half against Palestine.
¡¡¡¡Said Baihakki : “I just told the team off. What we were doing was not good enough…
¡¡¡¡”Within that span of a few seconds, everybody felt like someone gave them a tight slap, so I think they woke up and I’m glad they got the message.”
¡¡¡¡Baihakki acknowledged the criticism the team have received online, but looking ahead to the games against Uzbekistan and 65th-ranked group leaders Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning, he said: “I’m sure there will be an impact, but I don’t know if the result will favour us…
¡¡¡¡”Obviously, the Uzbeks are a few levels higher than us, but we don’t want to use that as an excuse… We already messed up against Palestine.
¡¡¡¡”We didn’t put our full potential there. Let’s try to put our full potential against these two teams.”
¡¡¡¡The White Wolves beat Singapore 3-1 in the reverse fixture in October 2019 and have an in-form striker in Eldor Shomurodov, who has six goals in qualifying.
¡¡¡¡The 25-year-old ended the season with five goals in Genoa’s last six Serie A matches, three of which came against third-placed Atalanta and sixth-placed Lazio.
¡¡¡¡The Saudis have 14 points from six matches with Uzbekistan five points adrift having played a game less.
¡¡¡¡Third-placed Palestine have seven points from seven matches and a superior goal difference to Singapore, who have the same tally but have played a game less.
¡¡¡¡Yemen prop up the table with five points from six games.
¡¡¡¡The eight group winners and four best runners-up, excluding World Cup hosts Qatar, progress to the next round of qualifying.