Even if he is to turn his back on the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, Singapore Under-23 coach V Sundramoorthy will try his best to leave behind a well-drilled team.
While the 47-year-old declined to comment on his future, after The New Paper reported he is set to sign with Negeri Sembilan, the former Singapore attacking wizard was a picture of focus at the team's first training session ahead of the Merdeka tournament, which will be held in Kuantan, Malaysia, from Sept 7 to 15.
Rain and lightning forced an early end to the workout at Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, and speaking to TNP, Sundram said: "We will make use of this tournament to try out players such as Al-Qaasimy (Abdul Rahman), Faiz Salleh and Sheikh Abdul Hadi, and see what options we have for the SEA Games."
The Merdeka tournament kicks off on Saturday in Kuantan with a 5.30pm start between the Under-23 teams from Singapore and Malaysia, and preparations have not been ideal for Sundram, who will have to cope without six starters for the match against Harimau Muda.
Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, defenders Safuwan Baharudin, Faritz Abdul Hameed and Shakir Hamzah, midfielder Hariss Harun and striker Shahfiq Ghani - who all starred for the LionsXII in their run to the Malaysian Super League title this season - are in Bernd Stange's senior Lions squad who will travel to China tomorrow for international friendlies against China and Hong Kong.
After the China friendly on Friday, Izwan and Shakir will join up with the Young Lions in Kuantan for matches against Thailand and Myanmar, before the play-off for placings in the four-team tournament.
The 2013 SEA Games will be held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, from Dec 11 to 22, with the Under-23 football tournament to kick off earlier.
Singapore have never won the coveted football gold at the Games, but many believe this year's team are good enough to challenge for the top prize.
Opting to look on the bright side, Sundram said: "We will miss our international players and it will not be easy against Malaysia, who have a full complement of players to choose from, but the good thing is we have a wider selection base to look at.
"This is definitely a key component of our build-up to the SEA Games and we will also make use of the opportunity to size up Malaysia, Thailand and SEA Games hosts Myanmar - three teams who will be contenders."
SINGAPORE UNDER-23 SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Izwan Mahbud, Neezam Abdul Aziz (LionsXII), Syazwan Buhari (Courts Young Lions)
Defenders: Madhu Mohana, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Faris Azienuddin, Shakir Hamzah (LionsXII), Al-Qaasimy Abdul Rahman, Sheikh Abdul Hadi, Raihan Rahman, Afiq Yunos (Courts Young Lions)
Midfielders: Aqhari Abdullah, Nazrul Nazari, Faris Ramli, Izzdin Shafiq, Zulfahmi Arifin, Faris Ramli, Gabriel Quak (LionsXII), Faiz Salleh (Courts Young Lions)
Forwards: Syafiq Zainal, Khairul Nizam (LionsXII), Sahil Suhaimi (Courts Young Lions)
MERDEKA CUP TOUR PACKAGE
Malaysia v Singapore (Sept 7, 5.30pm)
Thailand v Singapore (Sept 9, 5.30pm)
3-day 3-night package $310 includes
MS Garden Hotel deluxe twin sharing with breakfasts
Grandstand match tickets
Departs Singapore Sept 7, 7.30am
Return from Kuantan on Sept 9, after Thailand game
U-turn package $120
Grandstand match ticket
Departs Singapore Sept 7, 7.30am
Return from Kuantan after the match
Assemble at Malay Village carpark opposite Haig Road Hawker Centre.
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