Football: 'Like bicycles chasing Ferraris

Qatar thrashing a warning before Syria test, says Stange



(Musa Ali 56, Mohd Muntari 69, Hassan Al Haidous 79, Ismaeel Mohd 80)


After a competent showing in the first half when they held Qatar at bay, the wheels came off in the second period, as Singapore fell 4-0 in an international friendly in Doha yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Coming off the high of holding Asian powerhouses Japan to a 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier in June, the Lions started and ended the first half brightly, defending with discipline and trying to keep the ball as much as possible with a passing game.

But Qatar, No. 95 in the Fifa world rankings - 60 places ahead of Singapore - began to assert their authority and physicality in the second half at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, where Al Sadd captain and former Barcelona star Xavi Hernandez was in attendance.

And once they got their opener in the 56th minute, the Lions crumbled.

Singapore coach Bernd Stange remains hopeful of getting a positive result against Syria in their third game of their World Cup Group E qualifiers in Muscat on Friday.

The Lions lead the standings on four points - they beat Cambodia 4-0 and took a point off Japan in Saitama - but Syria flexed their muscles when they put six past Afghanistan in June.

"(This defeat) is a warning for us ahead of the Syria game, that we have to play well over 90 minutes," said Stange.


"We played an excellent first half... we broke down in the second half completely. Maybe it was the climate (more than 40 deg C), maybe it was the time difference, maybe the substitutions - that our second group is still not good enough for this level of football.

"But, overall, I feel our team did not deserve such a heavy defeat today. We are still confident we will adapt in the next few days to the hot climate here and the time difference and our team will be ready for Syria."

One of the positives the German can take into the Syria game is the form of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who made five saves in the first half against Qatar before being replaced by Hassan Sunny.

The 25-year-old LionsXII custodian earned widespread plaudits by saving 18 shots against Japan, and extended his international clean sheet record to 255 minutes since he conceded in the 5-1 friendly win over Brunei in June.

Just before the break, Safuwan Baharudin could even have given Singapore a shock lead with their only goal attempt, after being put through by Hafiz Abu Sujad, sending his left-footed effort narrowly wide.

However, after the restart, the Lions were swiftly reminded of the scale of the task that awaits them against the Syrians.

In the 56th minute, Qatar right back Musa Ali sneaked in front of Hafiz to open the scoring.

Then, Ghana-born Mohd Muntari - one of seven naturalised players from four different continents that featured for the home side - ran in between Madhu Mohana and Shakir Hamzah to head Hassan Al Haidous' cross in off the bar 13 minutes later.

Qatar captain Hassan then cleverly clipped the ball over Singapore goalkeeper Hassan from a tight angle in the 79th minute after Shakir had given away the ball.


Almost straight after the restart, veteran defender Baihakki Khaizan lost possession, allowing the 21-year-old, 1.94m striker Muntari to send fellow substitute Ismaeel Mohd through for the fourth.

Despite the second-half rout, Stange believes such friendlies will help Singapore realise what they have to do to narrow a widening gap.

The 67-year-old said: "It is much better for our players to see this combinational football, this passing football and world-class facility here in the Al Saad Stadium with a carpet-like pitch where you can play this kind of football.

"Our players liked it, they did it and we are going forward. It is totally different to South-east Asian football.

"There is a big, big gap and I believe the gap is becoming bigger and bigger... what I saw here in Qatar - the Aspire Academy, the facilities and how they work - I must say we are hunting Ferraris with bicycles, and that's very difficult."

However, even with the limitations, Stange remains hopeful of getting a positive result against Syria and stay top of Group E.

This article was first published on August 30, 2015.
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