Sunday, 16 December 2012

Focussed Lions back to work early

Singapore – The determination of the Singapore national team to win the AFF Suzuki Cup for a record fourth time was evident when the players checked back into the team hotel a day earlier than planned in order to prepare for their final showdown with Thailand.

Coach Radojko Avramovic had planned to give the players two days off after their hard-fought semi-final victory over the Philippines on Wednesday but his charges had other ideas and asked him to resume preparations on Friday afternoon.

“This is worth the sacrifice,” said midfielder Isa Halim to The Straits Times. “The medical staff are at the hotel, so those players carrying injuries can receive treatment and massages to speed up their recovery.

“This is also a good opportunity to recharge our batteries without distractions.”

Singapore team manager Eugene Loo, who was also involved in the Lions’ successful campaigns in 2004 and 2007, was impressed by the dedication shown by the players and said that it boded well for their fourth appearance in the Asean regional final.

“This is the same feeling we felt when we won in 2004 and 2007. The camaraderie is amazing, the players do everything together and there is no tension in the team,” said the 39-year-old.

While the Lions can be pleased with their progress to the final, they will be sweating on the fitness of central midfielder Fahrudin Mustafic, who could miss the match after suffering a groin injury during Wednesday’s 1-0 win over the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

With Hariss Harun out for the tournament with a shin fracture and Shi Jiayi unavailable due to a family emergency, Singapore can ill afford to lose another key midfielder for the final. Fahrudin is rated at 50-50 for the first leg on Wednesday and will undergo a scan on the eve of the match to determine his fitness.

On a more positive note, Isa Halim looks likely to play despite twinging his hamstring late on in the semi-final against the Philippines.

Tickets for the first leg at the 7,500-seat Jalan Besar Stadium will go on sale on Sunday and are expected to be snapped up quickly given the high demand for the Lions’ first appearance in the final in five years.

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