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Singapore’s 2-2 draw with China in Ogura’s Lions coaching debut

Singaporean fans erupted in cheers as the Lions staged a remarkable comeback, rallying from a 2-0 halftime deficit to secure a thrilling 2-2 draw against China on Thursday. It marked Tsutomu Ogura’s debut match as Lions coach since his appointment in February.



SINGAPORE:  Singapore capitalized on a stunning comeback, erasing China’s commanding 2-0 lead to secure a hard-fought 2-2 draw in a fiercely contested Group C encounter during the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifiers second stage held away on Thursday (21 March).

This fixture also signalled Tsutomu Ogura‘s (小倉勉) inaugural outing as the new Director overseeing both Singapore’s senior and Under-22 men’s teams, following his appointment in February.

The match, attended by 28,414 fervent fans, saw Singaporean supporters proudly waving national flags in celebration, despite Ogura’s understated demeanour during the post-match press conference.

Ranked 156th globally, the Singaporean Lions faced off against their 88th-ranked rivals in a challenging encounter, reminiscent of their 2013 friendly where they suffered a 6-1 defeat.

While the draw marked Singapore’s first point in the qualifying campaign, Ogura remained unsatisfied, emphasizing missed opportunities for a victory.

“Somebody told me (after the match), ‘congratulations’. I asked why? I am not satisfied,” he told the Singapore state media The Straits Times (ST) in the post-match media conference.

“I told the players this also. Please don’t tell me congratulations. If we got another goal, that is congratulations.”

The Lions’ performance against China marked a significant achievement, arguably their best result in a competitive match since holding Japan to a goalless draw in Saitama back in 2015.

Despite facing a formidable opponent, Ogura maintained optimism, emphasizing missed opportunities for a victory.

“Of course, China is a good team and it was difficult but we had chances to win,” he told The Straits Times.

“In the last five to 10 minutes, we could have won.”

Despite a shaky start and defensive vulnerabilities allowing China’s Wu Lei to net twice, Singapore showcased resilience and tactical adaptability under Ogura’s guidance.

While his strategy of quick attacking transitions showed promise, there is still room for improvement as the team progresses.

The draw leaves both teams with work to do in the qualifying campaign, with Singapore scheduled to face China again on 26 March.

Netizens and Singaporean fans flooded social media platforms with messages of support and enthusiasm following the thrilling match between Singapore and China.

Comments on The Straits Times’ Facebook page and The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) account reflected the excitement and pride felt by fans.

FIFA World Cup’s official X account joined in the conversation, commending Singapore’s remarkable comeback:

One fan acknowledged the team’s mistakes in the first half but emphasized the exhilarating performance witnessed in the second half.

The fan highlighted the electrifying energy from both the supporters and players, expressing disappointment at the missed victory but urging the team to persevere.

Another comment underscored the significance of the match being Singapore’s first game under new management.

The fan encouraged patience, reminding others not to judge the team prematurely. Instead, they urged the team to demonstrate their capabilities, climb up the ranks, and strive to restore past glories.

Prominent political figures, including Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and former Singapore People’s Party (SPP) chairman Jose Raymond, were among those captivated by the thrilling match, appeared to be impressed by the Lion’s remarkable comeback, expressing their pride in the team’s performance.

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Sinkeepore footballs will not go beyond world primary school standard,one swallow doesn’t make summer, In the next game they will fall flat on their faces & excuses galore will follow. Sinkeepore better stick to table footbsll.!!!!!??

I watched the clips. They played well. Kudos and keep it up.