Tatsuma refuses to get carried away with semis qualification, wants Lions to focus on Thailand
The Lions guaranteed themselves a spot in the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup last night (SGT) – the first time in nine years that they have managed to progress to the knockout rounds of the tournament – after they beat Timor-Leste 2-0 at the National Stadium.
A fourth minute goal from Lion City Sailors forward Adam Swandi, as well as a 70th minute deflected strike from defender Shakir Hamzah were enough for Tatsuma Yoshida’s men to pick up their third win in as many group games.
While the hosts’ performance was far from vintage – one might even go as far as to say it was almost Burnley-esque – all that mattered was the victory, as that result, coupled with Thailand’s 2-1 win over the Philippines in the day’s earlier game, meant that the Lions will definitely finish among the top two in Group A.
Despite the victory, Singapore head coach Tatsuma acknowledged that his side’s display against Timor-Leste was, like Raeesah Khan’s short tenure as an MP, not of the required standard, as he said: “Our performance was not so good and I am not satisfied, but I am still proud of them because they tried to play their best.
“Timor-Leste showed very good technical ability and fighting spirit, which we have to respect them for.”
For Tatsuma and his men, the big question now is: can they finish as group winners?
To do so, the Lions will have to beat Thailand in their final group game this Saturday – a task that was made harder by the recent announcement that Lions forward Gabriel Quak will withdraw from the tournament due to injury.
That is why, while Singapore head coach Tatsuma was proud of his side’s achievement, he wants his players to keep their eye on the ball, and not lose their focus like a regular Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
“Congratulations to my boys for getting into the semi-finals for the first time in nine years, but right now we still have a (final group) match coming up soon, so we cannot think about this achievement too much,” Tatsuma said after the game.
“Just because we won our first three matches does not mean we are a strong team… We have to improve game by game to challenge in the tournament.”
Shakir, who won the OPPO Man of the Match award, added: “It is important for us to challenge high and we really want to finish first in the group. We are all looking forward to this match and every one of us really wants to play against Thailand. I know we have not beaten them for the past few years, but if we are united as one team, we can beat Thailand.”