Blue Samurais 0-0 Lions: When A Draw Feels Like a Victory

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Singapore is one step closer to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Last night (16 June), Singapore held Japan to a goalless draw in a friendly 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Saitama Stadium.

What so good about a draw?

Well, a measly draw seems like something really petty for us to be happy about, but if we consider where both countries stand in the FIFA rankings, this deal is massive.

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That’s right, Japan is ranked 52nd and Singapore is ranked 154th. (We have no idea why the FIFA list ranking on the website is crooked, it could be reflective of the organisation.) The distance between both countries actually shows that a draw was a pretty impressive result for us.

Despite playing at home with a boisterous crowd, possessing a star studded squad, and having the ball 70% of the game, the Japanese just could not convert their dominance into goals.

Singapore has one man to thank for the result.

One Man: Izwan Mahbud

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The Singaporean goalkeeper for the night was in blazing form.

He saved a total of 18 shots on target against the likes of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa, and Yoshinori Mutō (all of whom ply their trade at the top professional level in Europe)

He pushed away Kagawa’s effort.

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He clipped away Okazaki’s one-on-one strike.

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10 minutes into the second half, he pulled off an insane save from Okazaki’s header.

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Honda’s header from a corner kick was parried away.

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The evening was just perfect for the 24-year-old goalkeeper.

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Save after save for 90 minutes until he saved Singapore from falling into to defeat.

It was no surprise that Izwan was awarded the Man of the Match for his efforts.

Here’s the full highlights of the game. For some fun, turn on the auto-generated captions and translate to English.

Who’s Next?

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Singapore now sits pretty at the top of Group E in Round 2 of the 2018 World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Sure, we might only be 2 games in with 6 still left to play, but small victories should be celebrated along the way.

To the rest of Group E, I say — Bring it on!

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With references from The World Game, SoccerWay, ESPN