SINGAPORE: The Singapore national football team suffered consecutive defeats in the opening two matches of their second round of the World Cup Group C qualifying campaign, the latest a 3-1 loss to Thailand at the National Stadium in Singapore on Tuesday, Nov 21. The Lions had previously succumbed to a 5-0 defeat against South Korea five days earlier in their opening match at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Despite Thailand’s Supachok Sarachat giving the visitors the lead in the fourth minute, Singapore came back fighting. Their determination shone through when substitute Shawal Anuar equalised four minutes before halftime. The match appeared evenly poised until Thailand head coach Alexandre Polking’s bold triple substitution after the hour mark revitalised the visitors’ attacking prowess. Thailand’s nimble attacking player Suphanat Mueanta capitalised on the renewed momentum, netting a brace in the 66th and 87th minutes, cleverly assisted by substitute Teerasil Dangda.

“The first half, it wasn’t a bad game, but at the end of the day we lost 3-1. It’s a very disappointing game and I feel sorry for the fans. Many fans came and support us, but we didn’t give the three points for the fans. It’s very difficult to accept to be honest but obviously we need to be better and I need to be better to win against Thailand in their home. It’s not done yet, we’re gonna do our best to take three points against Thailand,” said Singapore’s Song Ui-yong in a post-match interview with Ash Hashim, a local football journalist posted on her TikTok (@ashfutbolita).

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Photo credit: Thailand Football Association

While the Thailand fans were probably still basking on their first win in the World Cup qualifying campaign, they were met with a shocking and unexpected turn of events, as the Thailand Football Association suddenly dismissed their coach. Although it was the performance of Singapore head coach Takayuki Nishigaya that came under the scrutiny of the local football fans following the recent defeats, Polking’s (pic above) dismissal serves as a reminder that even success may not always be enough to save them from their head coach position.

It was also announced that Japanese coach Masatada Ishii will replace Polking as Thailand’s new national team head coach. Ishii has been in Thailand since 2019, with stints at Samut Prakan City and Buriram United. Before that, he had taken charge of Japanese clubs Kashima Antlers and Omiya Ardija.

Following the two defeats to South Korea and Thailand, Singapore now sits at the bottom of the group and will face China in back-to-back matches in March next year when they resume their World Cup qualifying campaign. Thailand and China are on three points each, but the Southeast Asian nations are in second place due to a superior goal difference.

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South Korea has asserted itself as the frontrunner in Group C, accumulating six points from their opening two victories. After their opening-day win over Singapore, South Korea followed it up with an impressive 3-0 away victory over China on Tuesday. Tottenham Hotspurs star Son Heung-min grabbed a double, and Jung Seung-hyun added a third goal for the Taegeuk Warriors.

Photo: Facebook screengrab / fifaworldcup