Singapore to meet Indonesia; Thais face Malaysia, Vietnam

Hosts Singapore’s hopes of advancing to the semi-finals of the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games were handed a boost on Wednesday after they were handed a fairly favourable draw.

Seeded as hosts for the Under-23 tournament, the Lions were drawn in Group A alongside Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Philippines.

With only the top two progressing to the last four, it looks like Singapore will be battling for qualification with the Indonesians and Myanmar.

Nonetheless, Cambodia will be confident in their prospects having recorded a 2-1 win over Singapore just last month, while Philippines have taken huge strides in recent years and are now considered a legitimate threat in the region.

But it appears most of the drama will come in Group B after defending champions Thailand were pitted against 2011 winners Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste.

Under Kiatisuk Senamuang, who also guided the senior team to victory at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, the Thais are favourites to finish top with Malaysia and Vietnam expected to battle it out for the second qualifying berth.

However, with the likes of Soukaphone Vongchiengkham and Ketsada Souksavanh to call upon, Laos could just spring an upset or two along the way.

2015 Southeast Asian Games Draw

Group A: Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Philippines

Group B: Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei Darussalam, Timor-Leste

Ex-United States captain Dooley set to take charge of Azkals

Former United States captain Thomas Dooley is set to succeed Michael Weiss and be named the new coach of Philippines.

The Azkals have been on the hunt for a new coach since parting ways earlier this month with Weiss, who led them to the semi-finals of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, as well as their highest-ever placing in the FIFA World Rankings.

But it has now been revealed that the vacancy will be filled shortly as the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) finalise a deal for Dooley’s services.

The 52-year-old was born in Germany but qualified to play for the United States through his father, and he became an American citizen in 1992 before playing every minute of their 1994 FIFA World Cup campaign.

Dooley, who also captained the United States at the 1998 World Cup in France, has won the Bundesliga and UEFA Cup with Kaiserslautern and Schalke respectively, before ending his career in the MLS with spells at Columbus Crew and Metrostars, who are now known as the New York Red Bulls.

Given Dooley’s wealth of experience as a player, Azkals team manager Dan Palami is confident they have got the right man for the job.

“I think his experience as a player and coach will help us,” Palami told Inquirer.

“After talking to several candidates, who also had good credentials, we think that he is the best choice.”

Dooley’s first match in charge of the Azkals will be an international friendly against Malaysia on March 1.

Singapore put undermanned Azkals to the sword in U-23 charity match

(SIN: Nazrul Nazari 28′; Shahfiq Ghani 52′; Sahil Suhaimi 56′; Hafiz Abu Sujad 70′; Iqbal Hussain 90+2′; Madhu Mohana 90+4′)

The Singapore Under-23s put on a clinical display to beat their Philippines counterparts 6-0 in a charity friendly at the Hougang Stadium on Sunday evening.

Nazrul Nazari got the hosts on their way with a 28th minute opener, and two goals in four minutes from Shahfiq Ghani and Sahil Suhaimi put them firmly in control of the tie.

Hafiz Abu Sujad then added a fourth in the 70th minute with a fine individual effort, before injury-time strikes from substitutes Iqbal Hussain and Madhu Mohana added the gloss on what was an assured display from Singapore.

The match, which was arranged to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines, also provided Aide Iskandar’s charges with a final warm-up before they embark on their 2013 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games campaign.

And they certainly looked in good nick as they dominated proceedings from start to finish, although there were a few bright moments from the understrength Azkals, who only had 13 players to call upon due to club commitments for the ongoing UFL Cup.

 While they did show plenty of initiative in the opening exchanges, it was the Lions who created the early chances; Hafiz and Safuwan Baharudin both sending headers off target from good positions inside the opening eight minutes.

However, their defence was guilty of being overconfident on a number of occasions and Marvin Angeles nearly made them pay in the 13th minute, pouncing on a slack pass and racing through only to be denied by Izwan Mahbud.

But the bulk of the opportunities continued to fall the way of the hosts and Sahil, Afiq Yunos and Hariss Harun were the next to be guilty of missing decent chances.

The continued lackadaisical nature of the Singapore defending prompted Aide to reshuffle his side and replace Afiq with Faris Ramli shortly before the half-hour mark, and the replacement had the desired effect as his side took the lead in the 28th minute.

Finding space down the left, Shahfiq floated in a lovely cross that Faris cleverly left for the unmarked Nazrul, whose tame shot somehow squirmed under Patrick O’Donnell and trickled over the line.

But four minutes later, the Philippine goalkeeper made amends as he produced a smart save to deny Faris, after the LIONSXI winger had skipped inside Amani Aguinaldo and fired a low shot away.

O’Donnell then made another fine stop to deny Singapore from edging further ahead in the 36th minute, reacting brilliantly to keep out a bullet header from Hariss before recovering to smother Sahil’s follow-up effort.

At the opposite end, Izwan was called into action again five minutes before the break after Porteria broke free following a short corner routine, diving down low to keep out the Kaya man’s curling shot.

Despite Philippines having their opportunities, the hosts continued to dominate proceedings after the break but Sahil wasted a glorious chance in the 49th minute, missing from six yards out after Faris Ramli had skipped past Paolo Pascual and squared the ball to leave him with an open goal.

But Singapore duly got their second in the 52nd minute when Sahil latched onto Zulfahmi Arifin’s lofted pass and drilled in a low shot that was parried by Pascual to Shahfiq; the 21-year-old making no mistake on the rebound from a yard out.

And four minutes later, it was 3-0 after Hariss played a glorious ball to send Sahil racing through and this time, the Courts Young Lions man made the most of the opening by blasting his shot into the roof of the net.

Although the contest was already all but over, Philippines continued to show good spirit with Porteria, Angeles and Mark Hartmann linking up well in attack, while Deo Segunial was making a number of vital interceptions at the back.

But there was little they could do in the 70th minute when Hafiz grabbed his side’s fourth goal, winning the ball off Ronnie Aguisanda and barging off Amani Aguinaldo’s challenge, before skipping past Pascual and slotting the ball home from an acute angle.

Seven minutes from time, Angeles had a half chance to grab a consolation for the visitors when he flew in to meet a dangerous freekick by Hartmann, but Syazwan Buhari was brave and did well to punch clear at his opponent’s feet.

Still, there were a couple of areas that would have given Aide cause for concern, like his side’s profligate ways in front of goal. M. Anumanthan was the next to waste a glorious chance when he fired wide from eight yards out, after Iqbal had raced down the left and picked him out unmarked inside the area.

But the Courts Young Lions midfielder did play his part as Singapore added a fifth in the first minute of injury-time, running onto a long ball by Madhu and crossing for Iqbal to fire home.

And shortly after, the rout was complete when Iqbal’s corner was headed onto the post by Madhu, only for the rebound to drop kindly for him to smash into the back of the net.

Singapore U-23s: Izwan Mahbud (Syazwan Buhari 72’), Faritz Hameed (Madhu Mohana 88’), Safuwan Baharudin, Afiq Yunos (Faris Ramli 27’), Shakir Hamzah, Hariss Harun (M. Anumanthan 88’), Zulfahmi Arifin (Raihan Rahman 85’), Nazrul Nazari (Aqhari Abdullah 76’), Sahil Suhaimi (Izzdin Shafiq 58’), Hafiz Abu Sujad, Shahfiq Ghani (Iqbal Hussain 78’).

Philippines U-23s: Nicholas O’Donnell (Paolo Pascual 46′), Angelo Marasigan (Ronnie Aguisanda 28’), Amani Aguinaldo, Deo Segunial, Nathan Octavio, Matthew Uy, Valentino Calvo, Mark Hartmann, Jason de Jong, OJ Porteria, Marvin Angeles.