Despite seeing his side come close to securing a perfect start to their Asian Cup qualification campaign on Wednesday (June 8), Singapore national captain Hariss Harun said the team cannot feel sorry for themselves.
The 31-year-old, who plays at the heart of the defence for the Lions, has urged his teammates to learn from the late heartbreak and do better in the matches ahead.
The Lions had seized the lead in the 57th minute through Song Ui-young but two late goals in the space of six minutes from 95th-ranked hosts Kyrgyzstan saw them fall 2-1 in Bishkek.
Said Hariss: “We have to learn. After we took the lead, the legs were tiring and the mind was starting to go. Part of the process of growing as a team is to create a (better) mentality.”
Singapore’s sole appearance at the quadrennial continental showpiece came as hosts in 1984 and a win against Kyrgyzstan would have significantly boosted their qualification hopes this time round.
Coach Takayuki Nishigaya was proud of his charges despite the loss. He said: “I’m very disappointed with the result but the players showed a very good performance so I’m very proud of them.”
The Japanese tactician, however, expressed his frustration at the Lions’ failure to put away their chances – a similar gripe he had in his first match in charge – a 2-0 friendly loss to Kuwait on June 1.
He said: “We created a lot of chances but we scored only one goal but I know we can score more. It is something I am confident we will improve on.
“We were able to put in a good performance against a strong side. We must continue this way. If we win the next two games, we can qualify.
“For now, we must recover quickly and focus on the next game.”
The Lions (world No. 158) will face Tajikistan (114th) tomorrow before finishing the qualifiers with a tie against Myanmar next Tuesday. Tajikistan hammered Myanmar 4-0 on Wednesday.
The match against Kyrgyzstan was the first time that local fans had been able to watch Nishigaya’s Lions since he was appointed coach in April.
And though the Lions fell to a defeat, it was, overall, a positive display against a side 63 places above the Lions in the world rankings.
While Nishigaya deployed the same 3-5-2 formation that his predecessor Tatsuma Yoshida favoured, there was a clear focus on more aggressive pressing when out of possession and quick transitions when the ball was recovered.
This was evident by the eight seconds it took from them winning the ball back in their half to fashioning a half-chance via Ikhsan Fandi just before half-time.
Nishigaya’s tenure as Lions boss has started with back-to-back losses but the signs are that he is building a team in his image.
The hope is that the results will soon follow. Hariss has similar aspirations.
He said: “Yes, we gave them a good game but we can’t just be happy with that. We need to take the three points.
“The team feel down because it is a tough result to take. But we still have games coming up and we have a lot to play for. We have to take the steps forward as a team and convert our promise into wins.”