Lions to stay young in Teheran

Lions to stay young in Teheran
Singapore player Gabriel Quak (left) celebrates his goal with Zulfami Arifin at the AFC Asian Cup qualifier match at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

They should have been celebrating after Singapore overcame the odds to defeat Syria 2-1.

But, a day after the shock result, national football coach Bernd Stange and the rest of his technical staff were back at the Jalan Besar Stadium, scratching their collective heads.

The problem that had them perplexed: cobbling together an effective backline for their next 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifying match on Nov 15.

"We are short of defenders," Stange admitted, after centre-back Baihakki Khaizan and defensive midfielder Hariss Harun both picked up yellow cards on Tuesday which ruled them out of the reverse fixture against Syria in Teheran.

The Lions were already due to be without Baihakki's central-defensive partner Safuwan Baharudin, who has been granted leave on account of his upcoming wedding.

With the availability of Afiq Yunos and Madhu Mohana - natural replacements at the heart of defence - uncertain due to the duo's national service commitments, Stange has plenty to ponder.

There are, of course, options.

Isa Halim, 27, would be an obvious choice to stand in for Hariss, while centre-back Shariff Samat, 29, was part of Stange's first Lions squad named in May.

But The Straits Times understands that the German is likely to turn to Under-23 players, as part of the Republic's preparations for December's SEA Games.

All Aide Iskandar, the man tasked with leading the Young Lions into battle in Myanmar, would say was: "We will monitor every single available player."

Winger Gabriel Quak, on the other hand, was more forthcoming in his support of Stange's youth-centric policy.

"With key players out, it will be a good test for us in such tough conditions," said the 22-year-old, who pushed his case for a SEA Games spot by coming off the bench to score the second goal in Tuesday's win.

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