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Izwan expects Arsenal onslaught

SINGAPORE — If he had to produce a staggering 18 saves to keep Japan, Asia’s top side, at bay, then goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud knows he will need to produce another world-class performance if the Singapore Selection are to pull off a surprise result against Premier League giants Arsenal.

Izwan Mahbud (left) poses with V Sundramoorthy during the pre-match press conference ahead of the match between Arsenal and Singapore of the 2015 Barclays Asia Trophy Tournament at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on July 14, 2015 in Singapore. Photo: Getty Images

Izwan Mahbud (left) poses with V Sundramoorthy during the pre-match press conference ahead of the match between Arsenal and Singapore of the 2015 Barclays Asia Trophy Tournament at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on July 14, 2015 in Singapore. Photo: Getty Images

SINGAPORE — If he had to produce a staggering 18 saves to keep Japan, Asia’s top side, at bay, then goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud knows he will need to produce another world-class performance if the Singapore Selection are to pull off a surprise result against Premier League giants Arsenal.

The two sides meet in the second match of the Barclays Asia Trophy tomorrow (July 15) at the National Stadium, with Everton and Stoke City set to kick off the quadrangular tournament earlier.

With the 2018 World Cup qualifiers resuming in September, this tournament will be a critical test for many of Singapore’s senior national players who are part of the Singapore Selection XI.

But the opportunity to consign Arsenal to a frustrating start to their pre-season tour of Asia will be a perfect belated birthday present for lifelong Manchester United supporter Izwan, who turned 25 today (Juy 14).

“I don’t know about that (bettering 18 saves), but there will be more shots,” said Izwan at the pre-match press conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel yesterday. “I see them (Arsenal) on TV and they have many attacking-minded players.

“About the record, let’s see about that tomorrow. My preparations are the same. There will be some nervousness but when I step onto the pitch, it will be a different ball game.”

Izwan’s heroics against four-time Asian champions Japan, featuring the likes of Borussia Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa and AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda, in a World Cup qualifier in Saitama on June 5 helped the Lions pull off a shock 0-0 draw. It has since earned Izwan an invite for trials with J-League club Matsumoto Yamaga.

But Singapore Selection head coach V Sundramoorthy knows even Izwan at his best may not be enough to repel a star-studded Arsenal side regarded as possible title contenders for the coming 2015-16 Premier League season.

Included in Wenger’s squad for the Barclays Asia Trophy are German World Cup winners Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, French forward Olivier Giroud, winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech, a recent acquisition from London rivals Chelsea.

Apart from a host of national players — most of whom play for Malaysian Super League side LionsXII — the Singapore Selection also includes players from the local S-League, including Geylang International’s Japanese defender Kento Fukuda, Warriors FC’s Argentinian midfielder Nicholas Velez and Tampines Rovers’ Brazilian forward Rodrigo Tosi.

“We know what Arsenal are all about, but are not going to park the bus,” said Sundram.

“We will play entertaining football but we have to be clever and not give them space and time on the ball, and not concede early.”

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