Singapore handed humbling reality check in Southeast Asian Games draw with minnows Laos

Singapore and Laos were both eliminated from the men's football tournament at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games on Saturday after 0-0 draw means neither can now finish in the top two of Group B. Lao Football Federation

Considering they found themselves in the Group of Death in the men's football tournament at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games, it was always going to be a tough ask for Singapore to advance to the semifinals.

After all, they would be vying with the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia -- who have combined to win the last 15 gold medals dating back to 1993 -- for a top-two finish.

It certainly proved to be the case with the Lions falling to consecutive 3-1 losses to the Thais and the Vietnamese in their opening two Group B outings.

But as their flickering hopes of advancing out of the group stage were officially extinguished on Saturday, it was a 0-0 draw with minnows Laos that truly gave them a humbling reality check.

Laos, who have managed just two wins in the past three editions of the SEA Games and who, in their previous outing earlier in the week, had been hammered 5-1 by Malaysia.

Although Laos did finish fourth back in 2009 Games, they have traditionally been one of Southeast Asian football's whipping boys.

Even though they have shown improvement in recent times, and at the current SEA Games so far, all of Group B's other teams would have earmarked their game against the Laotians as a straightforward three points.

Nonetheless, where Vietnam and Malaysia succeeded -- with varying degrees of ease -- Singapore failed.

And there was a precursor. At the last edition of the SEA Games, when Singapore needed a last-gasp 96th-minute equaliser form Jordan Emaviwe to rescue a 2-2 draw.

Perhaps more alarming than the actual result was the fact that this was not one of those occasions where the underdogs defended desperately with their backs against the walls to grind out a draw.

Laos took the game to the favourites and more than matched them.

Granted, Singapore did waste the best opportunity of the game when Syahadat Masnawi ballooned a second-half penalty, but the Laotians will argue they created the better opportunities -- twice denied by the woodwork and a couple more times by opposition goalkeeper Aizil Yazid.

Singapore were not better than Laos in any aspect of the game be it technically, tactically and even physically -- despite boasting a couple of players that towered over most of their opponents in Emaviwe and Kieran Teo.

And as much as it is a case of how Laos have been improving, it is also a sign that Singapore is no longer a team that can be expected to rack up comfortable wins against perceived weaker opposition.

There is nothing wrong with that too.

Football has its ups and downs and, while Singapore were once heavyweights in the region, it is now their turn to ride out some trying times. Even the likes of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia have all had their turns in the doldrums.

What is important is for the Singapore footballing fraternity to acknowledge how far away they are from being a SEA Games gold medal contender.

There is a long road ahead with plenty of work to be done.

And if that was not apparent already, it should be after Saturday's reality check.