It was just last week that the Lion City Sailors wrote their name into Singapore football history.
Kim Do-hoon’s men became the first Singapore side to beat a K League team, overcoming Daegu FC 3-0 in the Asian Football Confederation Champions League (ACL) at Thailand’s Buriram City Stadium.
On 18 April, the Sailors put on a brave, committed and disciplined performance to stun the South Korean outfit into submission. It was a sensational upset that nobody, not even the most optimistic of Sailors fans, could have predicted.
The Sailors will now have to do it once again.
The two teams will meet in their final Group F game on Saturday evening, and only victory will give the reigning Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions a chance of progressing to the next round of the competition.
Can lightning strike twice?
Sailors striker Kim Shin-wook certainly believes it – and the Sailors – can.
“The previous time we played them, our tactics worked perfectly, as we kept things tight at the back, and hit them on the counter. There’s no reason why we can’t repeat the feat again,” said the 34-year-old.
“They might be stronger, but we can be their bogey team. We have to capitalise on their mistakes, and importantly, finish our chances. With hard work, and a bit of luck, I’m confident we can get the three points again.”
As things stand, Daegu and Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds are currently joint-top of Group F on 10 points. The Sailors are three points behind in third, while China’s Shandong Taishan prop up the table.
Both Daegu and the Sailors need to win to have any hope of getting through to the next round of the ACL in what is a unique situation. This is because only the best three second-placed teams from the five groups go through to the Round of 16, a rule further convoluted with the pre-campaign withdrawal of Shanghai SIPG that now means all results against the bottom-placed teams in each group will not count towards determining the best second-placed teams.
Shin-wook emphasised the importance of scoring the first goal of the game. He explained: “Scoring first is going to be very important, as it will set the tone for how the game will play out.
“In our last match (against Urawa), we conceded first, and that made it very difficult for us. But if we manage to open the scoring against Daegu, they will have to come out and attack us, and this could suit our counter-attacking play,” he said.
Hailing this match as the “most important” of the Sailors’ entire 2022 season, Shin-wook urged his teammates to give their all on the pitch, and make Singapore football proud.
“We have a strong mentality in the team, but we have to remain focused and motivated throughout the 90 minutes – and I believe we can,” said the two-time ACL winner. “As a team, we have to realise that we are not just representing the club – this is us showcasing what Singapore football is about to a regional audience. That is a huge responsibility on our shoulders.
“The fans, young and old, will be watching us, so this is our opportunity to inspire them. Let’s go out there and put in the best performance we can, and make history once again,” he added.
“I believe we can.”