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Cubs (in red) struggled against the Japanese
Cubs (in red) struggled against the Japanese 

Sometimes, one can't be faulted that skepticism is aroused instantly when things don't deliver, especially when the subject is proclaimed for better things to come.

Fresh from their training trip to Turkey that saw them chalking up losses on margin against their peers from German side Hamburger SV, Spartak Moscow of Russian and Yemen U21 with a draw salvaged against Uzbekistan U21, things remain positive and was lauded as a good learning experience for the team's preparation for the upcoming SEA Games in June.

So literally, here came this match that the visiting Japanese U22 national side showed their class and gave their hosts - SINGAPORE NATIONAL U23 TEAM, a lesson that will etch in their minds that would not be easy to erase in the near future.

Down by five goals at halftime against the Japanese Olympic squad, the Cubs found themselves barely able to make their way out of their fortress during the first 45 with their opponents completely dominating the possession with ease and confidence that the silenced home supporters who would only hope the men in red had shown half of that quality as well.

Shoya Nakajima (10) volleyed in the lead in the 10th minute
Nakajima (10) volleyed in the lead in the 10th minute

Shoya Nakajima scored his second of the evening
Nakajima scored his second of the evening 

Barely ten minutes into the match, Shoya Nakajima capitalized on a defensive blooper in the box to open the account with a volley from close range before the FC Tokyo's striker doubled his tally eleven minutes later

"After the first two goals (by Nakajima), I think the Singapore side looked demoralized and didn't come as aggressively as expected," suggested Japanese coach Makoto Teguramori after the match when sharing his thoughts that were concurred by his Singaporean counterpart Aide Iskandar during his session.

Shakir Hamzah (2) foiled this attempt in the box
Shakir Hamzah (2) foiled this attempt in the box

"I agreed (with Coach Teguramori) that one can tell from the body language that after the two goals, the team was demoralized that I think we could have done better," said Coach Aide in his briefing to the press.

Following that, Musashi Suzuki, with his distinctive blonde top, tripled the score in the 34th minute to allow two more goals from JEF United's Haruya Ide (in the 42nd minute) and Ryota Oshima (45th minute) of Kawasaki Frontale before referee Mohd Farhan signalled the end of the first half to allow the shackled Singapore side to catch the much-needed breather.

Sahil Suhaimi (7) was struggling alone upfront
Sahil Suhaimi (7) was struggling alone upfront

It was almost a similar story when the play resumed in the second half with the men in blue continuing to strangle and nullify any attempt by the Singapore side to comb their way out of the doldrums that were marked by their poor passing and lack of ideas to make any breakthrough.

Crippled by the lack of support from the rest of the team, it wasn't hard to tell Sahil Suhaimi was a lone figure up front with little attention needed to mark him out when the ball wasn't there for him to inflict any visible damage on the Japanese backline.

Eventually, the LionsXII forward was replaced by Irfan Fandi in the early stages of the second half and showed the crowd of 3,458 the flashes of magic he inherited from his legendary father, it was remarked by a member of the media that "at least three Japanese defenders were needed to mark him." since he made his appearance amid the roars from the home crowds.

"Three defenders and One Irfan"
"Three defenders and One Irfan" 

The young lad did not let them down and scored the only goal for the Singapore side to avoid an ugly shutout in the 78th minute after the visitors netted three more goals before that to make the score 8-1.

Impact showed by the 17-year-old drew praises from Coach Teguramori when he lauded "Irfan had taught the Japanese defender how to defend better."

Nonetheless, the former midfielder is satisfied with the result tonight in spite of the short preparation he had for this game.

Japanese U22 showed their class in this match
Japanese U22 showed their class in this match 

Coach Teguramori shared his thoughts
Coach Teguramori shared his thoughts

Speaking through a translator, the ex-Vegalta Sendai coach said: "We managed to show our efforts in this game despite the short preparation we had, and although I am satisfied with the result, I told my players they must not be satisfied with it,

"Today, we showed that we are able to overcome our problem in goal scoring, but none of our goals came from set-pieces and it's a challenge my team is facing." added the 47-year-old tactician.

"We learned a lot today, even though it's a painful defeat, and hope the boys are able to learn the gap between football in South East Asia and the rest of Asia, which I think this experience will help them to improve," concluded Cubs' coach Aide in his assessment of the day which he feted his opponents today as the "golden generation" of the Japanese football

"As for now, I will try to build the team morale back again and felt it's good that the players experience this (defeat) now, but I think playing against top teams like Japan will push them to perform to their limit and believe we have substance in this team that we need more time to peak at the right moment." said the former Lions defender. 


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