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 By Kenneth Tan

Singapore hope physical Hong Kong will get them ready for Asian Cup

Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy believes the physicality and aggression of a Hong Kong friendly will give them a good gauge of their abilities before hosting Turkmenistan in a crucial 2019 Asian Cup third-round qualifier next Tuesday.

The Lions take on Hong Kong in a warm-up match on Thursday night before facing Turkmenistan -- 30 places above them at 141st in the FIFA rankings -- five days later.

Singapore are desperate to resurrect their chances of making it to the Asian Cup finals in United Arab Emirates in 2019.

After starting off with a gritty 0-0 away draw against Bahrain in March, they fell to a shock 2-1 defeat to Chinese Taipei three months later to leave them bottom of Group E with one point from two outings.

"Hong Kong's strong and physical, quite similar to Turkmenistan so I feel this game will give us an indication on how we going to fare against the Turks," Sundramoorthy said.

"Obviously, we have played them before and I can see from my players that they're ready for the physical battle.

"We started training a week ago and the boys are looking really positive to put up a good show for the home fans. Looking at what's happening, we need to step up.

"Hopefully, the Chinese Taipei game is a one-off and now we need to bounce back. Results are important but the points only matter against the Turks. So against Hong Kong, we can make changes and try our formation."

Sundram finalised his 24-strong squad on Wednesday, omitting the likes of Sahil Suhaimi, Hami Syahin and Faritz Hameed, who were on an initial list of 28 names.

However, there is room for a couple of new faces in the form of Warriors FC defender Emmeric Ong and Garena Young Lions forward Ikhsan Fandi.

The uncapped duo are set to feature against Hong Kong as Sundram looks to explore his options ahead of the Turkmenistan game.

"If you're young but talented, I feel that you're ready," the 51-year-old said. "Emmeric came into the team as a standby player, but did well to earn a spot in this squad. Hopefully he can show us he's worth being given this chance.

"Same for Ikhsan. This boy is only 18 and has potential, we can introduce him slowly. For the future, these are the players we need.

Ikhsan Fandi of Singapore v Malaysia 2017 SEA Games
Ikhsan Fandi could win his first senior cap vs. Hong Kong, having represented Singapore in the SEA Games.

Meanwhile, Singapore vice-captain Hariss Harun is raring to go as the Lions target their first win since beating Cambodia 1-0 in a pre-Suzuki Cup friendly last November.

"We talk about it all the time and we want to win every game we play in," said the 26-year-old, who is currently on loan at Home United from Johor Darul Ta'zim. "What happened in the previous game is in the past, we learn and move on.

"The boys look really motivated now and nobody's moaning about how tough training has been. If we can get a good result, it will set us up nicely for the Turkmenistan game and bring about a positive mood to bring up the state of Singapore football."

Singapore squad

Goalkeepers: Hassan Sunny (Home United), Syazwan Buhari (Geylang International), Zaiful Nizam (Balestier Khalsa)

Defenders: Emmeric Ong, Ho Wai Loon (Warriors FC), Nazrul Nazari (Hougang United), Irfan Fandi (Home), Mustafic Fahrudin, Daniel Bennett, Madhu Mohana, Shakir Hamzah (Tampines Rovers)

Midfielders: Yasir Hanapi, Safuwan Baharudin (PDRM FA), Shawal Anuar (Geylang), Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq (Home), Zulfahmi Arifin (Hougang), Shahdan Sulaiman, Hafiz Sujad (Tampines), Shahril Ishak (Warriors), Faris Ramli (Home)

Forwards: Khairul Amri, Fazrul Nawaz (Tampines), Ikhsan Fandi (Garena Young Lions)

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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