SINGAPORE — The Singapore national football team has travelled to South Korea over the weekend in preparation for their upcoming match against the Asian footballing giants in their second round qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup 2027.

The Lions are in Group C and will begin their qualifying campaign against the 24th ranked team on Nov 16 at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, before hosting Thailand five days later at the National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub. Last week, head coach Takayuki Nishigaya named 24 players in his squad which welcomed the return of veteran defender Safuwan Baharudin and striker Ikhsan Fandi.

Safuwan was a regular in defence for the national team before he suffered a head injury in June last year. Ikhsan has been out of action after he sustained a knee injury during an international friendly against Maldives in December 2022. Irfan Fandi who had pulled out of the national team squad for their friendly matches back in March, citing ‘personal reasons with regards to club commitments’, are also making a return to squad. Also back with the team is Irfan’s teammate at Thailand’s club BG Pathum, Ryhan Stewart, who was unavailable for the Lions first round of qualification due to a hamstring injury.

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“We missed having Ikhsan upfront during the Round 1 qualifying games hence it is a major boost to have him back in the team again, but we will need to be cautious by easing him back into the team. Safuwan is a seasoned veteran and having him back in defence along with Irfan, their combined years of international experience will prove to be useful,” added Singapore head coach Nishigaya.

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

Singapore defeated Guam 3-1 on aggregate in the first round of the World Cup qualifiers. Nishigaya’s charges won 2-1 in the first leg on Oct 12. Christopher van Huizen and Jacob Mahler scored a goal each in the first half, while Guam’s Jason Cunliffe reduced the deficit in injury time. In the return leg five days later at Guam’s National training Centre, Singapore hung on to a slender 1-0 win courtesy of a Shawal Anuar late winner in the 81st minute.

Singapore’s head coach Nishigaya is keenly aware that his players need to make significant improvements to their performance in order to compete with the more challenging opponents they will face in the second round of the qualifiers. Apart from South Korea and Thailand, Singapore will also be facing China in Group C.

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“Our opponents in Round 2 are of a higher level than us and we will need to fight together as a team more than ever before if we are to get a positive result against them. However, we must play without fear regardless of the opponent that stands before us. Our first home game against Thailand is crucial in ensuring that we get off to a good start. Home support can be a massive motivating factor and I am looking forward to seeing our fans create a lively atmosphere at the Singapore National Stadium in two weeks’ time,” shared the Lions head coach Nishigaya.

While on a scouting mission ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, South Korea head coach Jürgen Klinsmann was in attendance during the Lion City Sailors’ 2-0 victory over South Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in their AFC Champions League match on Nov 8. South Korea’s head coach Klinsmann has named strong squad to face the Lions, which include the likes of Premier League star Son Heung-min from Tottenham Hotspur, Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ attacking player Hwang Hee-chan, and Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in.

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Tickets Sales – Singapore vs Thailand

Sales for the Singapore vs Thailand match tickets on Nov 21 are currently ongoing and can be purchased via the Football Association of Singapore website as well as Sistic. The early bird promotion period has been extended till 13 November 2023, during which fans will have the opportunity to purchase adult tickets at a discounted price of S$15 each, while concession tickets will be available for only S$6 each. Following the conclusion of this promotion, ticket prices will revert to S$25 for adults and S$10 for concessions. Each person is allowed to purchase a maximum of twelve tickets per transaction, across any category.

Match tickets may also be purchased onsite at the Singapore Sports Hub Box Office located at Kallang Wave Mall, on match day from 2:30 pm until 8:45 pm; however, this will be strictly subject to availability. Hence, fans are highly encouraged to purchase their tickets early and via the online sales channel to avoid the queues on match day.

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore