Back in late spring when Singapore first played Japan in the current World Cup Qualifiers, no one thought well of Singapore. To be honest, I didn’t either. After witnessing Japan trounce Iraq 4-0 live at Yokohama Nissan Stadium, I was convinced Singapore would be beaten by at least 6-0. So certain it was going to be a one-sided game (also because Saitama is really far away), I chose to catch the Iraq game believing it was going to be a closer match (pun unintended). Even when the Japanese players, coach Vahid Halilhodžić, and several former Japanese national players said at their interview that the match against Singapore is one where it would be crazy to think Japan doesn’t win buy a huge margin.
But Izwan and the rest of the Lions proved them wrong and made me ashamed at how little credit I give the team.
At the first game, the comments weren’t in favor of Singapore. It was the “Japanese players’ fault” that they couldn’t convert. It was the “Japanese players’ poor performance” that they couldn’t score. But as the game went on, the commentator showed significant change in his comments. They began to praise the Singapore defense. They began to take note of Izwan. They began to know his name.
Halilhodžić said after the game, “I’ve never seen anyone make this many saves in an international game ever!”
Tonight is the second game the Lions are playing the Samurai Blues. At every chance the Japanese failed to score, the commentator spoke of how difficult it is to break the Lions’ defense. When 金崎夢生 (Kanazaki Mu) scored the first goal, the words were, “Japan finally broke Singapore’s tight defense.”
The Lions started this game with 10 points, the same as the Samurai Blues, and lost 3-0. But it doesn’t matter. Because not only have they changed the hopes of an entire island-state of 5.5 million people, they’ve also changed the views of 120 million and possibly more.
Izwan and the Lions, I bow to you.