SINGAPORE – Six uncapped players were called up by national women’s football team head coach Stephen Ng for two Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup qualification in Tajikistan later this month.
The 23-strong Lionesses will depart Singapore for Dushanbe on Sept 16, where they will play Indonesia on Sept 24 and 27 to determine which side progresses to the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup in India. If they are level on points after the two games, a penalty shootout will determine who earns the nod.
Singapore and Indonesia were originally joined by Iraq and North Korea in Group C, but are now on a unique qualification route after the two latter teams withdrew from the competition, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) explained in a media statement on Wednesday (Sept 8).
Ng believes his world No.130-ranked team have a “fairly open chance” against the No.95 Indonesian side.
He said: “It is a new start for both countries as both Indonesian coach Rudy Eka Priyambada and I were appointed to our respective positions earlier in the year and have since reassembled our teams.
“It will be an interesting match-up as we meet them twice in the space of four days. I see it as playing two finals – we will give our all and take it one game at a time.”
Team skipper Ernie Sulastri Sontaril, 32, is the most experienced player in the squad with 40 caps, while 16-year-old Danelle Tan is the youngest. The squad includes six debutants: Lila Tan, Sara Merican, Winette Lim, Nicole Lim, Khairunnisa Khairol Anwar and Nurhidayu Naszri.
The team will be without Australia-based defenders Priscilla Tan and Suriya Priya, and United States-based striker Putri Nur Syaliza due to “travel challenges”, said the FAS, while defender Siti Rosnani Azman is also unavailable after joining Japanese club International Athletic Club (INAC) Kobe Leonessa.
The FAS announced last week that the 24-year-old had signed a one-season contract to play in Japan’s first professional women’s football league, which made her only the second Lioness to play professionally after Lim Shiya, who played for W-League team Perth Glory FC in Australia’s first division in 2008 and 2009.
Nevertheless, Ng is bullish about his side’s chances and said the upcoming games are an opportunity for the squad’s new faces to gain international experience in Tajikistan, singling out teenagers Nicole (19), Khairunnisa (18) and Nurhidayu (17) as “promising players” making the step up from the national Under-19 team.
“Along with Danelle, Dhaniyah, Dorcas, Lila, Umairah and Venetia, they form the next generation of women’s football and these matches will give them crucial experience as they progress,” said the coach.