'Singapore should have played stronger opponent than Malaysia ahead of 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup'

R Sasikumar opined Singapore will face an uphill task in the upcoming Suzuki Cup

Daniel Bennett
Singapore played out a 0-0 draw with Malaysia on Friday Reuters

Former international R Sasikumar opined that Singapore should not have played Malaysia and that they should have opted for a stronger opposition ahead of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup in November.

The Lions played out a 0-0 draw in the much hyped Causeway Challenge on 7 October against Ong Kim Swee's Malaysian side, which has been undergoing a lot of changes due to the controversial retirements of their Johor Darul Ta'zim stars Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, Amirulhadi Zainal and S Kunalan.

Despite coming up with a strong attacking show, Singapore were not able to find the decisive goal in front of a massive home crowd at the National Stadium. In their next international friendly against Hong Kong on Tuesday, V Sundramoorthy's side had very little to show for as they were defeated 2-0.

Singapore have endured a horrid run ahead of this year's Suzuki Cup failing to register a win in their last five outings. Sundram, since being appointed as the caretaker earlier this year, has been able to lead the Lions to only one victory, the one against Myanmar in June.

"Going into the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, every match is important. It is important to prepare properly and be ready. To be honest, if I was the coach I wouldn't have played Malaysia. I would have aimed to play bigger and stronger opponents," Sasikumar was quoted as saying by the FourFourTwo.

"You need to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can work on them. But there have been a lot of restrictions with other teams being available. It is just one of those things."

Like Malaysia, Singapore have been struggling to find their perfect combination for the Suzuki Cup, in which they have been drawn with co-hosts Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. In the game against Hong Kong, Sundram made six changes to the starting XI that faced the Tigers last week.

The 51-year-old coach had maintained that his team needed to versatile and he would not refrain from changing the side according to the strength of the opponents.

While the likes of Daniel Bennett, Baihakki Khaizan, skipper Hariss Harun and youngster M Anumanthan have been impressive, winger Gabriel Quak and attacker Khairul Amri have been far from impressive.

Sasikumar opined Singapore would find it difficult to go past the group stages of the tournament. He also said that the Southeast Asian teams should dream big and stop seeing the Suzuki Cup as World Cup.

"The Suzuki Cup is going to be very tough. Singapore have a couple of really good players and there are a lot of below-average players If we can get out of the group stage then we have done really well," the former Suzuki Cup-winning international added.

"Indonesia is touch and go. It could be our game but you never know which Indonesia will turn up. The Philippines are rock solid these days and Thailand are Thailand.

"But I really think the Suzuki Cup has caused the drop in Southeast Asian football. People in Southeast Asia tend to think it is the be-all and end-all. We see it like the World Cup, but it is not that at all."

Singapore take on Philippines in the tournament opener on 19 November before which they will have a 10-day training camp in Qatar and will play three more friendlies.