Sunday, September 6, 2009

Suzuki Cup: Only the crown will do

Twenty-one months after successfully defending the ASEAN Championship, the Lions will once again be tasked with defending their ASEAN crown when the newly-renamed Suzuki Cup kicked off in Indonesia and Thailand this coming December.

The draw was kind to Singapore as the Republic was dealt with an easy group with co-host Indonesia and, the weakest of the six automatic team, Myanmar along with a qualifier yet to be decided to qualify for the semi-final stage.

Not that the Lions needed the luck for since the end of the last ASEAN championship, the team has progress tremendously for one to view the ASEAN crown as the minimum target.

It is not arrogance to set the ASEAN crown as the minimum target but a reflection of the height the Lions is reaching that even a Final appearance should be viewed as disappointment.

Unlike the last two ASEAN championship crown the Lions won, National coach Raddy is marching into the 2008 edition with not only a stable team but also having transform his team to his preferred tactics and formation of 4-5-1.

For both 04/05 and 07 edition, Singapore was playing 4-4-2 and the midfield spine of Goh and Jailani for the 04/05 edition only formed at the last moment going into the crucial junction.
Unfortunately both were already 29 and could not be considered the future with both also lacking the technical abilities needed to play constructive football.

Thus in the Asian Cup Qualifiers in 2006, the midfield was reconstructed once again just 12 months after it was formed and with time running short, a Shi and Fahrudin partnership was clobber together on short notice.

Therefore, the spirit and teamwork between the midfield and the other departments, as well as between both teammates, were in the building stage entering the 2007 edition but now 20 months later, both have worked the partnership brilliantly.

However it is not just the mentioned two that is the only reason behind the Lions recent transformation over the last year and a half but rather, it being the team effort as Isa Halim, Wilkinson, Shahril Ishak and Noh Rahman all step up to be counted as well as the abilities and willingness of Farzul, Amri and Indra to be the support attack that gave Raddy the confidence to implement the change from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1.

The 4-5-1 is a flexible formation that allowed the attack to be at it most destructive as it free the team best attackers to concentrate on attacking when having the ball as anchorman are always behind defending the backline and it even give defenders and fullback the freedom to join in the attack if required.

Yet at the other end, the formation also ensure teams are not easy to break down as the team leave only one true forward upfront when defending and with nine players at the back and in midfield it compress the space given to opposition, making it difficult to pass the ball through the backline.

In the World Cup Qualifiers, the effect of the new formation make it case right from the start with a 4-0 demolition of Palestine in Amman, Jordan where 19 months earlier, the Lions fell to the same opposition one-nil down with a poor display.

Indeed Singapore have played some of the best attacking football seem in recent time during the WCQ 2010 and yet kept out their foes from scoring.

If one take out Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia as both are a class apart from any of the ASEAN teams Singapore will face in this championship, one will see Singapore have hit 11 goals in 5 games against teams like Lebanon, Tajikistan and Palestine; all of whom can match up to any of the ASEAN teams in Singapore group or Group B.

It is an average of 2.2 goals scored per game and in international football any average above 2 is amazing.

Also the goals are spread out between the midfielders and attack unlike past when the attack is the one shouldering the goals.

In addition, we are also not conceding goals at the back with 3 clean sheet out of 5 Qualifiers and only 2 goals conceded meaning an average of only 0.4 which is equally amazing.

With such evidences from the last year and half backing the Lions for this ASEAN campaign, a Final finish of previous campaign cannot be judged as enough any longer and only the ASEAN crown will do this time round

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