Uzbekistan outclassed Singapore 7-3 tonight in a World Cup Asia Group 4 encounter at the National Stadium in a gamewhich exposed some painful truths about Singapore’s standing in the world game. See the Reuters report here.
In the groggy aftermath of Singapore’s 3-7 drubbing by Uzbekistan tonight, in the crowded confines of the National Stadium’s air-conditioned Silver Room, in front of the horde of media men waiting in anticipation for his views, Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic’s admission at the post-match press conference was frank, brutal and damming:
Yes, the Lions V2.0 may be the three-time Asean champion, the king of South-east Asian football. However, when it comes to competing on the world stage, we still have a long, long way to go.
In fact, given the current talent at hand, we are still not good to compete against the top teams from Asia, let alone the world.
“We will need improvement in all areas if we want to play against the top teams in Asia,” said the Serb-Montenegrin grimly.
“We have something now but it is not enough. And I don’t see us having it for quite a while. In fact, some of our players are really not international level players.”
And so there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, the painful truth in six words: we are not good enough – yet.
And what a time to learn it – at a crucial Asian Zone Group 4 World Cup qualifier on home soil, a game which the Lions needed badly to win or at least come away with a point to keep their hopes alive of advancing into the final qualifying stages.
Sure, everyone knew it wasn’t going to be easy – after all, the Uzbeks are 69 places above Singapore in the FIFA rankings. Some predicted a 0-2 loss. Yet there were others who felt that Singapore could pull off a hard-fought draw or even eke out a 1-0 win.
We felt like this because we bought into the hype about the Lions – that surely this team must have some quality about it if it can win the Asean Championship twice in the last four years, lose just 0-2 to Saudi Arabia and beat Lebannon 2-0.
And so we never saw it coming. Which was why we were left completely stunned when the truth finally reared its head and blindsided us with a sucker punch.
So painful was the truth that one can’t even say that last night’s game was an emotional roller-coaster ride for us. To describe it thus would mean that the game had its fair share of highs and lows for us.
It didn’t. After the euphoria of watching Singapore score twice in 31 minutes to tie the match at 2-2, it just plunged into the never-ending depths of despair as the Uzbeks recovered from the two-goal setback to viciously pound the Lions into their eventual 3-7 submission.
We watched with dropped jaws, with hands clutching our cheeks, with disbelieving and shocked “Nos” and frustrated “Arrgghs” emanating from our throats as our defenders were completely outplayed, out-dribbled and overwhelmed by the Uzbeks.
For me, one of the saddest things about tonight’s game is the fact that we still lost like this despite coming into the game knowing how the Uzbeks play and having spent the last week preparing for this particular style of play.
“We were prepared for them,” said Avramovic, “We knew that their attacks would come from deep.
“Yet, we still couldn’t cope. We gave them too much room and we didn’t press them back. Also, they were bigger than us and we didn’t have the height to compete.”
In other words, regardless of having done their homework, we still got hammered.
The other sad thing is that tonight’s defensive horror show has practically overwhelmed all the other positives that we should be picking up from tonight’s game:
– the fact that we actually scored three goals against Uzbekistan which can only augur well for our strikeforce (hey, even four-time World Cup qualifiers Saudi Arabia couldn’t score one against them)
– the fact that our Lions can play a decently attractive game of possession and passing football.
As Football Association of Singapore deputy secretary general P. Sivakumar said: “When was the last time you saw Singapore saw three goals against top-level competition?”
I know. But I still can’t help wishing that we had scored a fourth and not conceded a seventh. Then I wouldn’t feel such a ache in my heart about tonight’s result.
Perhaps too the Lions. Instead, traumatised and battered, they find themselves having only five days to pick up the pieces before they play Uzbekistan in the return leg in Tashkent (they fly off tomorrow morning).
In the light of tonight’s result, that game is now truly a scary thought.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan