Singapore SEA Games hopefuls' steep learning curve on Qatar tour


Singapore's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hopefuls have returned home after a tough trip to Doha where they were outplayed by their Qatari opponents.

The Singapore U22 side lost 3-0 last Thursday before falling to a 2-0 defeat on Saturday night, as they worked on combinations and physical conditioning, ahead of August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Before that, Singapore will head to Myanmar for AFC U23 qualification matches, with the top 16 teams heading to the 2018 tournament in China next January.

With senior national squad members Irfan Fandi and Hami Syahin involved, the Singaporeans saved their best performance for the second and final game. They held the strong Qatari side goalless until the second half, and had their chances to pull a goal back.

"Playing strong teams like Qatar will allow us to better gauge our abilities in the lead-up to our important tournaments in the coming months," Singapore U22 coach Richard Tardy said.

"In fact, Qatar reached the semifinals of the AFC U23 Championships last year. If not for conceding late goals to South Korea in the semifinal and Iraq in the third-placing match, they would have been one of the three Asian teams in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil."

All but six of the 23-man Singapore squad in Qatar came from Garena Young Lions in the S.League. Apart from Irfan, attacking midfielder Adam Swandi has also been capped at senior international level.

Singapore have never won the SEA Games men's football gold medal, and, disappointingly, failed to go beyond the group stages of the 2015 tournament on home soil.

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