A reader’s thoughts: Lions – what went right, what went wrong

Received a pleasant surprise in the mail today. A name from the past – a Malaysia Cup veteran – dropped a note to say that he had stumbled upon this site whilst surfing and wanted to share his views with me after reading my post-match write-up.

I found the depth of his analysis extremely refreshing. That was why I asked him if I could reproduce his email and, after a while, he eventually agreed, on condition that he remained unnamed. No problems with that.

Do drop me a comment on whether you agree or disagree with his observations. I can also be reached at sporesportsfan at yahoo.com.sg

The email:

In the build-up to the match, I had this feeling that we would be able to get something against the Uzbeks.


“Apart from the fact that we have Raddy Avramovic – whom, in my opinion, is one of the best coaches Singapore has ever had – and his team at the helm, the Lions are also relatively fresh as we are only into the fourth month of the nine-month S-League.


“So thorough was Raddy in his preparations that he had even enlisted the services of the SingaporeSports Council’s video analyst. That meant we would have dissected the opponent’s play and been made aware of their weaknesses and strengths.


“In fact, all the noise coming from the Jalan Besar pre-match build-up was that we know how the Uzbeks play and know what to look out for.


“So what went wrong in the end? Wel, here are my humble thoughts:


“I think the preparations (based on what we read in the media), were good. Of course, it could have been better if the team had more time to train. But then with a professional league running simultaneously, time is indeed a precious commodity.


“Nevertheless, the players were made available to Raddy for about 10 days before the game against Uzbekistan.


“Normally, FIFA rules state that national coaches will be given five days of preparatory time with their players before a FIFA-sanctioned match. We had an additional five days to prepare.


“Prior to the Bahrain friendly on 28 May, I think our tactics for the Uzbek game were:


i. Play it tight. Get everybody behind the ball when defending.  By keeping it tight, we could overcome our individual defending inadequacies by using group defending;


ii. Invite the Uzbeks to come out of their defending third, before catching them on the counter using the speed of Khairul Amri and Aleksandar Duric as wel as Duric’s ball-holding capabilities;


iii. Work hard. Deny the opponents space in midfield;


iv. Play a tight, patient game of controlled football – the longer it takes the Uzbeks to score, the more frustrated they would then become and may then leave gaps trying to get that elusive goal. We could then capitalise on the gaps with our speed in the attacking third or deal a killer blow from one of our counter-attacks or set plays, which are one of our strengths.


“However, after the Bahrain game ( SSF note: Singapore lost 0-1, the goal coming in the 82nd minute. See report here  ),  I strongly suspect that there was a shift in the thinking in the Singapore camp, that there was now a sense of optimism that if we could match Bahrain, then we could do likewise against Uzbekistan.


“In fact, before and after the Bahrain match, the refrain from Jalan Besar seemed to be that the friendly was ideal because the Uzbeks play a similar brand of football.


“I disagree. 


“The Uzbeks play a European brand of football – fast, aggressive, physical. They are also ( to put it very mildly! ) tactically and technically sound. Their ability to control the rhythm of a game is also noteworthy.


“On the other hand, whilst the Bahrainis are technically and tactically astute, they play a slow build-up game. Nor are they as physical as the Uzbeks.


“And so after our narrow loss to Bahrain, I think we went into the Uzbek game without giving our opponents the respect they deserved.


“Don’t get me wrong: I mean it’s good for our players to go into games not fearing the opponents and clearly, Raddy has built this ‘no fear’ feeling in the team which is highly commendable. But we must always respect our opponents.


“And no, I don’t think we were cocky or arrogant or anything like that. But we definitely thought we could attack the Uzbeks and play them at their own game, with open attacking football. 


“Unfortunately, by half-time it was no more a contest between equals.


“If I can be specific about tactics, I was surprised at how Precious Emuejeraye and Baihakki Khaizan were pulled out of position and failed to cover each other.


“I can understand it if we were playing a man-to-man marking system with a sweeper to tidy up at the back while Precious and Baihakki would follow their direct opponents all over.


“But it appeared to me that we were playing a zonal system with a flat back-four, four in midfield and two up front.


“Also, while a lot has been said of the inadequacies of our defence, I felt our midfield was a letdown when it came to defending. If only Mustafic Fahrudin and John Wilkinson had sat in front of our defence and protected our back four, we would not have allowed the Uzbekistan midield and attack to run riot.
As usual, it’s always easy to comment and make criticisms after a match. I just wanted to share my humbe thoughts and I welcome people to tear down my arguments too.


“Best wishes…”

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