Singapore’s U23 side go into their crunch match against Malaysia at the SEA Games tonight hoping to give their fans something to cheer about in the face of a barrage of negativity.
Richard Tardy’s young side have come in for harsh criticism online in recent months and following their 2-0 opening match defeat on Monday at the hands of Myanmar.
In fact, it’s been a tough few months for the Young Lions, who have lost 12 of their last 17 matches, but the coach said he’s doing his best to shield his players.
“I try to protect the players as far as I can. The pressure must stay on me and not the players,” said Tardy.
“The problem is now, (with the backlash) on social media and all, it’s sometimes not good to be reading all of that,” he added. “But it is something we cannot change.”
“(The team) must be ready to show what they can do and show their level.
“This is most important. When it is bad news, you must take it as a bigger form of motivation to want to prove that you are not so bad,” added the Frenchman.
“For the players, it’s their job to learn from this and if they want to grow to a high level, this is an issue they’d have to face every day.”
Singapore defender and captain Irfan Fandi echoed his coach’s sentiments earlier in the week, saying that the continuous criticism had affected the team.
“Yeah, [the criticism] affects everyone, you can see it sometimes after games,” Irfan said. “But this is football – you can’t avoid critics and their comments.”
“If we get a good result, everyone will be on our side. We’ve spoken to one another about this and we know if we don’t want that [negativity], we have to give our best and show we want to fight.”
Malaysia, who beat Brunei 2-1 in their opener, will be confident going into the clash as the majority of the crowd at the Shah Alam Stadium will be backing the hosts.
Coach Ong Kim Swee said that Malaysia needed to be more clinical after missing a host of chances against Brunei.
“We need to convert our chances in front of goal… that is the main agenda,” Ong said. “But I believe the boys will improve in the second and third games.”
The last time both countries met in the SEA Games was in 2013 in Myanmar, when Singapore beat Malaysia 2-1 for the bronze medal.
The other Group A game sees Myanmar take on Laos.