|By Khalis Rifhan
March 3, 2010 is still etched in the minds of both Baihakki Khaizan and Aleksandar Duric.
The duo experienced the agony of missing the cut for the the 2011 AFC Asian Cup on the last day of the qualifiers, after losing to Jordan in Amman when they only needed a draw to progress.
Fast forward to 2012, where they have once again been drawn in the same group as Jordan, with Syria and Oman the other two teams that will join them in Group A.
Speaking exclusively to Goal.com Singapore, the two national players gave their thoughts on the draw.
“We have played against Jordan, and I still remember that match,” said Baihakki.
Duric expressed surprise that they would be facing the Jordanians again, and also pointed out that the Lions would have to travel long distances.
“We got Jordan again?!” exclaimed the 42-year-old upon being told of the draw.
“It's not only a tough opponent, but also the travels to the Middle East will have an effect on the players.”
Both players believe that it is essential to get the team ready in advance months before the opening qualifiers in February next year, while Duric added that there was a need for stability in our football scene.
“It is very important that we really prepare for such big tournament like this in advanced,” stressed Baihakki.
“All this while, I see that we can have the advantage to perform against big teams. This time around we must not make the same mistakes as before.”
“Hopefully we can prepare well for the qualifiers," addded Duric.
"We have so many obstacles with the S.League and now I read that many LionsXII players might go back to Young Lions and I think that we always have some new ideas - we never think of doing things how it should be [and not changing]."
The Tampines Rovers captain also expressed his confidence in the rest of his national teammates, insisting that qualification is not a mere pipe dream.
“I think we should kind of be happy with the draw and not be thinking that it is a tough draw. Every team in Asia is improving and there is no easy group,” noted Duric.
“We can give a good fight, and we can do it. I've always believed that our national team is good enough to play against any team, if we prepare well for it. “
But one thing is confirmed: fans won’t be seeing Duric on the pitch during the qualifiers, as he has indicated that he will retire after the year end AFF Suzuki Cup.
“It is 200% [sure] that you won’t see me playing next year. I will be sitting in the stands with the fans during the qualifiers.”