Football: Lions must beat Malaysia, says coach Stange

Football: Lions must beat Malaysia, says coach Stange
Singapore national football coach Bernd Stange at Jalan Besar Stadium.

There were no ifs and buts.

Without hesitation, national football coach Bernd Stange told The New Paper in an interview yesterday: "We must beat Malaysia on Aug 8 and we should win the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.

"If we don't have such ambitions, then we should tell the organisers we don't want to play, please take us out of the competition." It is exactly a year to the day since the 66-year-old German was appointed Singapore coach.

At his unveiling on May 15 last year, Stange said: "There are 3.5 million Singaporeans. That's a lot of young talent. We have the potential to have a powerful national team."

One year on, the former coach of Belarus and Iraq has not lost any of his enthusiasm and optimism.

While Singapore are still far from being Asian powerhouses, there have been steady steps taken in the right direction.

Over the last 12 months, Stange has led the Lions to five wins in 11 A international matches, with the standout result a 2-1 win over Syria at the Jalan Besar Stadium last October.

Singapore's Fifa ranking has risen from 165th to 147th, and results over the next six months will determine whether the national team are continuing to move in the right direction.

After finishing bottom of their group in the Asian Cup Qualifiers for the 2015 Finals, the next big test for the Lions will be the glamour friendly against Malaysia on Aug 8 at the new National Stadium.

It may be a friendly, but it will be the first match the Lions will play at their new home, and with 55,000 fans expected to fill the stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub, Stange knows the team will be under pressure, especially with the match being held one day before the country's National Day celebrations.

The Suzuki Cup will roll around a little over three months later, and it will be co-hosted by Singapore and Vietnam.

MAKE IT FIVE

Kicking off on Nov 22, defending champions Singapore are record four-time winners of South-east Asia's most prestigious football competition and fans here will expect the Lions to at least make the final on home soil.

Stange agreed.

"It is very difficult to win consecutive Suzuki Cups but we need to try to win the Suzuki Cup, to defend our title with home advantage," he said.

"These are games and tournaments played on home ground. We should try to win, even if we have a young team, average age maybe 23-24."

"Even if we have only Singapore-born boys, not naturalised boys, there is no reason for the home country not to go for the win."

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