SINGAPORE – Versatility and aggression are attributes national football team head coach Takayuki Nishigaya wants to see from his players as they head into two international friendlies in Vietnam.

The Lions will depart next Monday for Ho Chi Minh City where they will take on Vietnam on Sept 21 and India three days later at the Thong Nhat Stadium.

The 49-year-old Japanese announced his squad on Tuesday and said the upcoming games will be vital for his team’s preparations for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship from Dec 20 to Jan 16.

“I know how I want the team to play, which was seen in June during the Asian Cup qualifiers (in June) – high-pressing and aggressive – but we also have to learn how to control the game,” he said.

“I know the Lions still have room to grow, the players need time to get used to what is required and this window is another chance for them to do so.”

Among the new faces in the Lions squad are Hougang United goalkeeper Mukundan Maran and Geylang International defender Joshua Pereira, both 24.

Midfielders Hazzuwan Halim (Geylang) and Ho Wai Loon (Balestier Khalsa) meanwhile, return after last being called up in June 2021 and October 2018, respectively.

Notable omissions include Hougang United winger Shawal Anuar, whose wife is expecting their first child, and 108-cap Selangor FC defender Safuwan Baharudin, who is still not medically cleared after a concussion injury.

Nishigaya said: “I am looking out for players who can play in different positions.

“Because the AFF matches are played over a short period of time, four games in 11 days, I have to consider the impact of injuries, suspensions and other possible accidents.

“This means that players who can play different positions will be useful… and also give me tactical flexibility. It also increases the level of competition within the team.”

Nishigaya has overseen four games since his appointment in April, with the Lions suffering a friendly defeat against Kuwait (2-0), before further losses in the Asian Cup qualifiers against Kyrgyzstan (2-1) and Tajikistan (1-0). They won their last qualifying match against Myanmar 6-2, but failed to progress to the finals in 2023.

Last modified: September 13, 2022