Football: Lions aim for a shock

SINGAPORE - They surprised the Lions when they arrived here a full week before their clash to prepare and acclimatise.

Already rated as one of Asia's fastest improving sides, anyone who watched Oman train ahead of Wednesday's Asian Cup Group A qualifier against Singapore would have been impressed by their slick one-touch passing and constant movement, under the tutelage of Paul Le Guen, the famous title-winning coach of French giants Lyon.

They would have feared the worst for Bernd Stange's side, at world No. 155, 60 places below Oman in the Fifa rankings.

But Lions skipper Shahril Ishak insists they will step out onto the Jalan Besar Stadium pitch on Tomorrow eyeing a shock win.

While the 29-year-old is aware of the enormity of the task, he is counting on the fans to fire his team up.

Speaking to The New Paper after the team's training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium last Monday night, Shahril said: "We're playing at home, so of course we want three points. But it's not an easy game because Oman are a top team in Asia.

"This is an international match and every footballer wants to play in front of a full crowd of fans, so I hope the fans will come and give us more support and motivation.

"Without them, football is nothing."

This will be German coach Stange's first competitive match with the Lions.

The team were guided by Radojko Avramovic for nine years, and his tenure ended last December.

Change is in the air.

Stange, 65, formerly coach of Belarus, has instructed his players to embrace a passing and possession game, building play up from the back.

He has drafted in youngsters like Adam Swandi and M Anumanthan, and there is a sense of excitement and anticipation surrounding the Singapore team.

The players say Stange is a fatherly figure off the pitch, but what hasn't changed is that he is just as serious on it as his Serbian predecessor.

Father figure

Said Shahril: "Coach Raddy has given a lot to Singapore football and achieved a lot. Now, for coach Stange, we have to support him because he's a new coach who is talented with good experience.

"The boys are trying to adapt to his style of play and we will support and give our 110 per cent for him.

"On the field, he is no-nonsense, wants us to be focused and to play his style. Off it, he's a family guy who is like a father to us.

"He is very open, easy to talk to and is straightforward. If you do something wrong, he'll say it straight to you and that's good."

Even though Singapore are bottom of their group after their opening 4-0 defeat by Jordan in Amman in February, Shahril said the mood in the dressing room is good.

He said: "We are happy and there's a good bond in the dressing room. We are excited and looking forward to the Oman game.

"We've been looking at their strategy and what they're going to do.

"Oman are a strong team and of course we will try to compete and give our hearts out against them.

"Coach Stange has been giving us motivation, telling us to be confident on the pitch and enjoy what he was taught us."

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