Bangkok: Singapore midfielder Safuwan Baharudin is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as his side aim to create an upset by beating defending champions Thailand in the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup on Sunday. 

Singapore need a win to be sure of progress to the last four but Safuwan knows that this will be a completely different game to the thrashing of Group B underdogs Timor Leste in midweek. Safuwan struck a hat-trick in the 6-1 win but does not expect a repeat showing at the Rajamangala Stadium. 

“It took me five editions to get a goal,” said Safuwan. “Before this, I never really had a chance to score in the AFF Suzuki Cup. To get one is very difficult. To get three is unbelievable.

“Hopefully, I can get another one at Rajamangala because I have never scored against Thailand.

“I think it’s going to be a little different from the Timor Leste match. We were more offensive in the Timor Leste match. For this particular game, we really need to be more focused and more defensive because Thailand are very good on the ball.”

Safuwan believes the key to success could be in striking early and then holding off their opponents with game management. 

“Playing at Rajamangala is never easy but we know that with our tactical discipline, we could sneak a goal, hopefully a goal in the first half, and try to keep that scoreline,” he said.

Safuwan knows all about frustrating the Bangkok crowd. As a 21-year-old back in 2012, he starred at centre-back in a rearguard action that saw the Lions lose 1-0 in the second leg of the final, but triumph 3-2 on aggregate.

“Back in 2012, I was one of the youngsters,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy game even though we took a two-goal lead to Bangkok. They kept coming at us the whole 90 minutes.

“What I can advise to the younger players is to stay calm. The fans will frustrate you, the atmosphere will affect you, but I think after five to 10 minutes, things will settle.”

Singapore hit an all-time low in the FIFA rankings last year, the culmination of a period that saw them exit two AFF Suzuki Cups at the group stage. But confidence seems to be rising again, with the Lions having given themselves a fighting chance of making the last four. 

“We have been at rock bottom in the last four years of Singapore football,” said Safuwan. “Nothing has changed in the sense of us being together but something has changed in terms of confidence.

“This year, most of us have been out playing in the Thai League, Malaysian League or other parts of Southeast Asia. I think that could be key to the improvement we have had.

“We are bringing experience from different leagues. I think the boys who are back in the national league and no longer playing in Singapore are bringing football to a higher level.”