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SINGAPORE: Fandi Ahmad’s Lions will not merely sit back and defend, despite being up against a “special” Indonesia side, said the Singapore head coach on Thursday (Nov 8).

Speaking to the media at a pre-match conference at the Singapore Sports Hub, Fandi said that the Lions’ opponents pose a serious threat, especially with their pace, but vowed that Singapore will take a balanced approach to the fixture.

Four-time ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup champions Singapore begin their campaign with a home tie against Indonesia on Friday.

They also have fixtures away to the Philippines, now managed by former England boss Sven Goran Eriksson, and reigning champions Thailand, as well as a second home game against minnows Timor-Leste on Nov 21. 

“Indonesia is special, different from the previous years I’ve seen – they are very dangerous on the break and they have many, many nippy players,” said Fandi, who during his playing career featured for Indonesian side Niac Mitra. “So we have to be aware, as much as we want to attack and score goals, we have to look at the back as well.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit at the back.”

Singapore Lions at a training session

Singapore players at a training session on Nov 8, 2018. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

To beat Indonesia, coached by former international Bima Sakti, the Lions will have to nullify the searing pace of their wingers such as Febri Hariyadi.

“Indonesia is very strong … but we’ve studied their games and hopefully we can try to cut their movements,” said Fandi. “They are very good ball-handlers, technically very strong. They are mobile which you’d enjoy watching, the one-two touches, the movement which we envy.”

The coach said while Singapore do not have that many “talented players”, his side have a solid game plan in place.

“We want to be strong in terms of teamwork and team defending, dedication and discipline,” Fandi said. “We can’t stop Indonesia (in terms of) how they play, but we know what we have to do.

“We will play our game, that’s our strength – that we play our game as a team.”

Ikhsan Fandi at a training session

Ikhsan Fandi (second from left) and his teammates at a training session on Nov 8, 2018. (Photo: Matthew Mohan)

Singapore have not won a competitive fixture since a 2-1 victory over Cambodia three years ago, sinking to a lowly 165th in the FIFA world rankings (as of Oct 25).

The Lions have failed to move past the group stages in the last two editions of the tournament and have been thrust into a group dubbed by some as the “Group of Death”.

But Fandi believes that his side will be motivated by the past and can get off to a winning start.

“Our motivation factor is very strong. We want to do well because the last two editions we were out early,” added Fandi. “The first (and) important thing is to get the three points in the game. It’s going to be very tough but we will do whatever we’re supposed to do.”

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