Saturday, November 29, 2014

We Saw it Coming...

1. Toothless Lions

Much to our surprise, Shahfiq Ghani was named in the starting line-up. We quickly termed him 'Zero Fighter,' after a disappointing season in which he made 9 appearances (MSL only; 4 subs)) and scored 0 goal. He was joined by Faris Ramli, who made 17 appearances (5 subs) in the MSL with 4 goal to his name. Coming on half-way was Gabriel Quak, who too made 12 appearances (2 subs) and scored wow! JUST ONE! And on the bench there's Khairul Nizam. Guess how many goals he scored throughout the season. And Stange dare called his strikeforce 'potent'?

Of the 5 goals scored by Singapore prior to this match, 4 was scored by defensive players, Shaiful Esah and Hariss Harun. Khairul Amri lived up to form and expectations, scoring against Thailand, and placing one more in against Malaysia.

But the rest of the strikers? Toothless, and not in a cute dragon-y way too.

2. The System

In the 2012 team which beat Malaysia 3-0, there were 3 players who had never left the system. The system being what the FAS termed their development squads. Players who made their professional debut in the Courts Young Lions, progressed to LionsXII, and never quite left the comfort of their mother's breast. In the 2014 team, this increased to 4.

In addition, there are 4 players who came up through the system and made their debut in FAS's development squad, who then go on to play for other clubs. There was only 3 in 2012.

Only 3 players in the 2014 team made their debut outside of the FAS developmental squad system, in contrast to the 5 from the 2012 squad.

Lets remember that LionsXII finished 8th in the MSL this year. And then lets gasp in horror as a majority of these players are selected for the national team! Besides the toothless ones mentioned above, there are other players who played minute role in the 3 matches. Superior players existed in the S.League, players who may well have been overlooked because they are not part of the system. 

3. Smaller Squad

We are talking about physical size here. Raddy had always selected physically superior players for his team. In 2004, we had Goh Tat Chuan and Hasrin Jailani keeping the opponents in check. In 2007, Noh Alam Shah terrorised opponents in their own half. In 2012, Mustafic Fahrudin and Isa Halim heckled opponents left, right and centre. And let's not forget Aide Iskandar and Subramani, who provided much muscles in defence in 2004 and 2007.

In 2014 Faris Ramli was pushed around like a little boy in a packed MRT train. And with Baihakki suspended, and Shahdan injured, the team was lacking both height and aggression. Something a single Hariss Harun cannot provide. Without muscles in the team to protect the smaller speedier players, they simply were unable to shine.

4. Why are we even in the MSL?

Yes! Why do we have a team there? Week-in, week-out. Playing against Malaysian teams. After 3 years, they would have figured us all out by now. And it showed, with LionsXII finishing 8th this year. Does Stange expect the carbon molecules in the graphite to miraculously turn into diamonds for the Suzuki Cup?

Never forget that Singapore won 4 AFF championship since the S.League was established, and never won any senior Asean tournament in the 'good old' Malaysia Cup days. Focus on the domestic league, and the national team will flourish.

5. The mind game

Just why do you need to post up that photo Jose Raymond? As if our players are any more innocent than them. And bad news travel fast, they were soon making the rounds in Malaysia's social media too! Surely now Safee Sali have something to prove. And he did. As Mark Richmond said, 'he smoked it in!'

And guess who is the first guy to start the S.League blaming?