SINGAPORE: The Singapore national football team will be without three key players who started the match in their 2-2 draw against China at the National Stadium last Thursday when the two sides meet again on March 26 at the Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium.

Defensive players Safuwan Baharudin and Lionel Tan are suspended, while midfielder M. Anumanthan is nursing an injury.

With the three players out, head coach Tsutomu Ogura has called up Irfan Najeeb and Kieran Teo from BG Tampines Rovers and Young Lions, respectively.

Both players have linked up with the squad, which is travelling to China on Saturday morning. Fans can watch the match between Singapore and China LIVE tonight on meWatch from 7.50pm onwards.

During their first encounter in Singapore in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifying second round Group C campaign, visitors China took a two-goal lead at the half-time interval courtesy of a brace from former Espanyol striker Wu Lei.

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The Lions also had to thank their goalkeeper Hassan Sunny for brilliantly denying Wu from the penalty spot in the 32nd minute.

But Singapore rallied back from the two-goal deficit in the second half. Head coach Tsutomu Ogura’s string of substitutions paid dividends, as Faris Ramli reduced the deficit in the 52nd minute.

Jacob Mahler’s goal levelled the scoreline in the 80th minute, sending the home crowd into wild celebrations.

This is the Lions’ first point after two losses in the qualifiers. Singapore started the World Cup second-round qualification with a 5-0 drubbing by South Korea and suffered a 3-1 loss against Thailand.

Both matches were under the charge of former Singapore head coach Takayuki Nishigaya.

At the end of January, the Football Association of Singapore announced that Nishigaya had been sacked and subsequently appointed Ogura as the head coach.

Singapore national football team head coach Tsutomu Ogura and Faris Ramli (Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore)

China will welcome the return of their captain, Zhang Linpeng, who quit international football after his side failed to beat Singapore last week.

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In an interview with the Chinese state media, the 34-year-old veteran player revealed that he had reversed his initial decision and said that as long as the national team needed him, he was still willing to give everything he had for the team.

Zhang decided to ‘retire’ from international football last week in a rage. He finds it a ‘disgrace’ that China was not able to earn a victory over Singapore at the National Stadium.

“We can’t even manage to beat Singapore at this point. Personally, I find it unbearable. It’s a disgrace,” a fuming Zhang said after the match.

Singapore is still at the bottom of Group C despite earning their hard-fought first point of the World Cup qualifying campaign. China is in third place with four points, level on points with Thailand, which is in second spot.

South Korea led the group with seven points. Only the top two from each group will advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.

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After the match against China, Singapore’s remaining two qualifying matches will be against South Korea on Jun 6 at the National Stadium, before taking on Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium on Jun 11.