SINGAPORE — Days after a 5-0 defeat by a dominant South Korea, the Lions were back in more familiar temperatures, in a more familiar environment as they faced Thailand at the National Stadium on Tuesday (Nov 21).
But the outcome was the same for Singapore, with a 3-1 defeat leaving them rooted to the bottom of their World Cup Qualifying group. South Korea are top of the group after a 3-0 away win over China, who beat Thailand in the opening round of fixtures.
An early goal from Thailand’s Supachok Sarachat put Mano Polking’s men in front, and while a first-half reply from substitute Shawal Anuar handed Singapore a route back into the game, a Suphanat Mueanta double wrapped up the victory for Thailand.
Last week, the Lions were soundly beaten by South Korea at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, with goals from Cho Gue-sung, Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min, Hwang Ui-jo and Lee Kang-in sealing the victory.
And while the South Koreans may have laboured in the first 45 minutes, ASEAN kingpins Thailand took the game right to Singapore with Hassan Sunny forced into a good stop with less than a minute played.
Then came a low drive from Supachok four minutes later to silence the home crowd of 29,644.
Singapore’s last competitive fixture against Thailand was in 2021 when they lost 0-2 to the War Elephants in the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup (now the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup). The Lions last beat Thailand in 2012.
Singapore, who were without Shah Shahiran (suspension) and Irfan Fandi (injury), looked to soak up the pressure and hit the Thais on the counter but simply could not fashion a shot on target.
Hassan was kept busy in Singapore’s tie with South Korea last week. On Tuesday, he had to be alert in the 27th minute to push a long-distance effort from Phitiwat Sookjitthammakul away for a corner. Minutes later, he was called into action once again with a strong parry from a Supachai Chaided strike.
But Singapore would claw themselves level as good combination play between Ilhan Fandi and Song Ui-young resulted in a ball being played through to Shawal. He would tuck home despite Thailand goalkeeper Kampon Phatomakkakul getting a hand on the finish.
The Lions looked fired up after the restart and would hunt higher up the pitch. And that pressure would create space for a Song snapshot in the 52nd minute but his speculative effort was held by Kampon.
Their opponents were by no means out of the game, and a skewed Ekanit Panya shot in the 58th minute was a warning sign for the Lions.
Then came the game-winner – a brilliant through ball from second-half substitute Teerasil Dangda found the onrushing Suphanat who finished with aplomb.
As the Lions pressed for the equaliser, Suphanat would drill home minutes from the full-time whistle.
The first two rounds of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying for the 2026 World Cup also serve as the first two stages of qualifying for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup. The top two teams from each group will move on to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers and also qualify for the Asian Cup. The remaining teams will continue to play qualifying matches, but only for entry into the Asian Cup.
The Lions’ subsequent qualifiers will be played next year. They will meet China at home on Mar 21 and away on Mar 26 before the return fixtures against South Korea and Thailand on Jun 6 and Jun 11 respectively. CNA