Football: No more slip-ups

Football: No more slip-ups

Singapore will wrap up their preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup with two friendlies against Laos tomorrow and Cambodia on Monday.

The Lions face regional powerhouses Thailand in their campaign opener on Nov 23 and national coach Bernd Stange wants nothing less than two wins from the two friendlies against the minnows to instil confidence in the camp.

"It is important to go into our match against Thailand with a positive mood and feeling," said the German yesterday. "It's good to play at home after so many games away. We need good results to raise the confidence of our young team.

"I want to see the team keep their shape well, to do what we have been practising in training and to get good results to go with good performances."

Singapore, co-hosts of the Suzuki Cup, are in Group B with Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Former Hertha Berlin coach Stange is desperate for a couple of wins to lift his players' flagging spirits.

In what has been a disappointing year for the Lions, they have won just one of seven "A" Internationals, slipping down the Fifa rankings to 161st.

Their sole victory was a 2-1 win over 199th-ranked Papua New Guinea in June.

GLAD

But Stange is heartened by his players' showing in their last match in Riffa last Friday - a 0-2 defeat by a Bahrain team ranked 13th in Asia.

The Lions held firm for three-quarters of the game before conceding two quickfire goals in the 67th and 75th minutes, and Stange later praised his team's showing for the first hour of the match.

"It was an excellent team performance," said the coach, who described the first 67 minutes against Bahrain as the team's best this year.

"We defended well as a team, we attacked well and gave Bahrain a few scares too."

"I was very happy that the players followed the instructions and showed our quality against one of Asia's best teams."

Midfielder Hariss Harun echoed his coach's rallying call for wins.

The 23-year-old, who plays his club football at Malaysian outfit Johor Darul Ta'zim, is eager to make an impression at this year's Suzuki Cup after a bittersweet tournament two years ago.

While he was a part of the winning squad, he played in only two group stage matches before picking up a leg fracture which ruled him out for the rest of the tournament.

Victories in the next two games would put the Lions in the right frame of mind for a title defence.

"We are aware we haven't got good results all year, but now's the time to step up," said Hariss.

"We need to score goals and keep clean sheets to build up our confidence.

"Against Laos and Cambodia, we have to set the standard."

He added that while the highly-anticipated clash with tournament favourites Thailand on Nov 23 will be at the back of the players' minds, they are firmly focused on the two friendly matches ahead of them.

"We'll take one game at a time," he said coolly. "That's how we did it in 2012. Thailand, of course, is an important game for us, but we are all professionals and we know we have Laos on Thursday and Cambodia on Monday, first.

"When we wear the flag on our chest, we wear it with pride and a sense of duty. We know we have to perform in every game and that's what we aim to do."

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 12, 2014.
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