Singapore ready for 'physical battle' against Philippines in Suzuki Cup opener: Hariss Harun

Singapore open their campaign against higher-ranked Philippines on Saturday.

Phil Younghusband
File photo of Philippines captain Phil Younghusband Reuters

Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun believes his team are prepared to take on co-hosts Philippines in their opening clash of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Azkals are the highest-ranked team from the region (124) in the tournament and are favourites to progress to the knockout stages from Group A, which also has defending champions Thailand and Indonesia.

With a squad filled with foreign-born talent, Philippines are eyeing the first-ever Suzuki Cup title. They have reached the semi-finals of the biennial tournament on three consecutive occasions (from 2010 to 2014) but have failed to cross the penultimate hurdle every single time.

The Filipino unit are also known for their strong physical play in the Asean region. Most of their midfielders and forwards, including Captain Phil Younghusband stand tall and are capable of giving their opposition relentless pressure with their menacing presence.

They are heading into the tournament following a 1-0 win over world number 99 Kyrgyzstan at home on 9 November.

However, the Lions are not feeling intimidated ahead of their opening clash. After a 90-minute training camp on Thursday in Manila, Harris said the experience of playing similar teams in the past has given them the confidence to face their Saturday's opponents.

"A physical battle can become an emotional one too. While we have to be up for it, we must also keep our cool and be in control of our emotions," Hariss said, as quoted by The New Paper.

"We have had a couple of games against physical teams, and we've had similar challenges in the past, so we are ready.

"This is not something beyond our reach."

Notably, coach V Sundramoorthy had maintained that his side used the friendly game against Syria, who according to him have a similar playing style to the Azkals, earlier this month to assess their "physicality and intensity".

Veteran defender Daniel Bennett, who is key to the Lions' chances in the upcoming tournament, believes Singapore have players who are "clever" and can handle the situation against Philippines.

The 38-year-old, who himself is 1.84m tall, will have to lead the backline if Singapore concede set pieces, which the tall Filipino frontline will look to make use of.

"Yeah, against a team like the Philippines, you have to match up physically. If you're not as big, you have to be clever too," Bennett said.

"They're big boys, but our players have got qualities some bigger players may not have."

The Lions, who are heading into the game after ending their six-match winless streak following their 1-0 victory over Cambodia on Friday, will reportedly face a weakened Philippines squad as their star players - striker Javier Patino and left-back Daisuke Sato - as they have not been released by their respective clubs.