402956115_732644582236587_3312645589484530354_n Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore (Facebook)

Singapore kicked off their 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign with a defeat against Asian giants Korea Republic in Group C last night. Playing away in Seoul, the Lions went up against a side that boasted of a host of international stars in their ranks, including Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae and Lee Kang-in. Ranked 24th in the FIFA world rankings, 131 places above them, it was always going to be an uphill task for the Lions.

But it was an encouraging opening 40 minutes for the visitors, as they defended well as a unit to keep the hosts at bay.

Safuwan Baharudin made his first start for the Lions since June 2022, and marshalled the backline alongside Irfan Fandi and Lionel Tan. Cho Gue-sung, who plays for FC Midtjylland in the Danish Superliga, saw his header go wide of the post in the 13th minute. Singapore custodian Hassan Sunny was called into action before the half-hour mark, pulling off an important save to deny Lee Jae-sung. The crossbar would then come to Singapore’s rescue minutes later, as Cho’s volley only managed to find the frame of the goal. It looked like Takayuki Nishigaya’s charges would head into the break with the score tied. But a moment of brilliance from Korea Republic undid Singapore’s good work. An inch-perfect through pass from Paris Saint-Germain’s Lee Kang-in found Cho Gue-sung for the game’s opening goal right at the stroke half-time.

Irfan Fandi and Ryhan Stewart were replaced at the break by Anu and Hafiz Nor respectively. Without Irfan and Ryhan, Singapore struggled in the opening minutes of the second half, as Korea Republic raced out of the blocks. They doubled their advantage just two minutes after the restart. Cho this time turned provider as his cross set up Hwang Hee-chan for the game’s second goal. Singapore’s only bright spark came in the 55th minute, when Shawal Anuar latched on to a Safuwan Baharudin flick to find the back of the net. But the goal was disallowed for offside.

It was all one-way traffic from there, as crowd favourite Son got in amongst the goals. The Tottenham Hotspur star showed his quality with a perfectly placed shot beyond Hassan Sunny in the 65th minute, much to the delight of the 64,381 fans at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. Two minutes later, matters worsened as Song Uiyoung brought down Seol Young-woo in the penalty box, resulting in a penalty for Korea Republic. Substitute Hwang Ui-jo converted from the spot, before Lee rounded off a fine individual performance with a superb long-range effort as the Taegeuk Warriors ran out comfortable 5-0 winners. The result ended Singapore’s 3-game win streak.

The other Group C game saw China come from behind to secure a 2-1 win away at Thailand. Korea Republic top the group, level on points with China after the 1st round of matches.

Singapore will face Southeast Asian rivals Thailand on Tuesday, 21st of November at the Singapore Sports Hub. Kick-off is at 8 pm.


402984037_732643615570017_4726756721309039034_nPhoto credit: Football Association of Singapore (Facebook)