THE Lions will now be able to take on Japan in a mouth-watering World Cup qualifier at the 55,000-seat National Stadium after all, following a switch in fixtures.
The Samurai Blue, boasting a stable of European-based stars such as AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, will now descend on local shores to cross swords with the Singapore team on Nov 12.
The Lions were originally scheduled to host Japan on June 16 in their Group E clash. But this clashed with the closing ceremony of the SEA Games, which Singapore is hosting.
It meant the match would likely have been played at the 8,000- capacity Jalan Besar Stadium, as the National Stadium is booked for the opening and closing ceremonies of the biennial meet.
But the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said yesterday that the Japan Football Association, Asian Football Confederation and world governing body Fifa have agreed to the scheduling switch. The June 16 tie will now be played in Saitama.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin said: “We look forward to hosting Japan on Nov 12. It will be a major treat for all Singapore and Japan fans, and we are confident it will draw a strong crowd.”
The news will delight local fans, especially since Japan have proved to be a hit whenever they play here. When the four-time Asian champions took on Brazil in a friendly here last October, 51,577 fans packed the National Stadium as the South Americans sauntered to a 4-0 win.
Ten years earlier, Japan beat Singapore 2-1 in front of a capacity Jalan Besar crowd. Two screens were set up outside the stadium for those who could not get in.
Besides Japan, who have played in the last five World Cups, Singapore are drawn alongside Cambodia, Syria and Afghanistan in Group E. The Lions open their campaign with an away match against Cambodia on June 11.