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Singapore aim to win physical battle vs. Bahrain in Asian Cup qualifier

Singapore will need to win the physical battle if they are to avoid a losing start to their AFC Asian Cup campaign, and end their poor run against Bahrain on Tuesday night.

In the first of their third-round matches, V. Sundramoorthy's side travel to Riffa to face opponents who are 36 spots above them in the FIFA rankings.

Both Sundramoorthy and captain Hariss Harun agree that they can't be intimidated by the big and uncompromising West Asian side.

"We will go into the match as underdogs, but we'll do our best," Sundramoorthy told Today.

Singapore striker Khairul Nizam
Singapore have lost all seven previous meetings against Bahrain, dating back to 2001.

"We will have to use bigger and stronger boys to compete physically, and I believe we have experienced [players] and young heads who, put together, can fight for one cause -- [to get three points]."

Dating back to 2001, Singapore have lost seven consecutive matches against Tuesday night's opponents. But Bahrain's ranking has dropped out of the top-100 in recent years to its current position of 127, compared to Singapore's 163rd.

"It's always a physical game against Bahrain, we have to be strong and ready to last the full 90, 95 minutes," said Hariss. "Then when we have the ball, we have to try to create chances and take them."

Singapore have five players vying for two spots in central defence. Teenager Irfan Fandi started alongside utility player Safuwan Bahruddin against Afghanistan, but Daniel Bennett, Madhu Mohana and Fahrudin Mustafic can also play there.

Turkmenistan defeated Chinese Taipei 3-1 in the opening Group E game on Sunday. Bahrain will be aiming for their fifth consecutive Asian Cup finals' appearance in United Arab Emirates in 2019, while Singapore haven't appeared in the regional showcase since 1984.

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The Lions showed positive glimpses in their 2-1 friendly defeat to Afghanistan in Doha last Thursday, but will need drastic improvement to snap their three-game losing streak dating back to last November's AFF Suzuki Cup.

"I think the second half against Afghanistan was quite positive as we played well and took the initiative to create chances," Hariss said.

"We were a bit disappointed because the two goals were due to lapses in concentration; we were a bit naive, but we have moved on from there. Our focus now is to do well against Bahrain."

While they have never appeared in the World Cup finals, Bahrain finished fourth in the 2004 Asian Cup, and climbed to 44th in the world in September of that year. They lost a continental playoff against New Zealand to miss out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

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