Football: Stange under spotlight

Singapore coach Bernd Stange.

The dust has settled and the hard questions asked.

In some cases, the knives have even come out. And now, national coach Bernd Stange's day of reckoning could soon arrive.

The New Paper understands that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) executive committee will hold a meeting on Dec 29, exactly a month to the day the national team were knocked out of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the group stage by bitter rivals Malaysia at the National Stadium.

The exco will discuss a number of topics on the agenda, one of them being a review of the Lions' failed defence of their ASEAN crown, based on a report filed by Stange.

It is a normal procedure.

In 2010, after the Lions also crashed out at the group stage under Raddy Avramovic, the FAS eventually came out - about seven weeks after their last group game, a 0-1 defeat by Vietnam - to back the coach.

Avramovic eventually led the team to their fourth Suzuki Cup - his third as Singapore coach - two years later.

After Singapore's early exit from this year's competition, Stange's position is also under the spotlight.

Like Avramovic before him, though, the 66-year-old German is expected to be spared the axe.

Stange took the reins in May last year on a two-year contract.

It is understood he signed a three-month extension to that contract earlier this year, so that he could help mentor national Under-23 coach Aide Iskandar at next June's South-east Asia (SEA) Games on home soil.

There are signs from the FAS that seem to indicate they are prepared to back their man.

A day after the defeat by Malaysia, FAS president Zainudin Nordin told The New Paper that Stange needed time.

"This (criticism of coaches) happens all the time. Raddy Avramovic won the Cup in 2004 and 2007 but, in 2008 and 2010, things were bad," said the football chief.

"But (sacking the coach) in a knee-jerk reaction has not been our style. We're a responsible organisation that looks at reports and analyses.

"We will look at the reports and, if we do find grounds, we will make a decision from there."

Facing the media right after the Malaysia game, Stange said: "As you know, my contract finishes in 2015, and I'm not a youngster. "I haven't thought about this question, (it's) five minutes after the game. It surprised me a little bit. STRATEGY "First, we want to have a rest, all together (as a team)... Then we will sit together and fix our strategy.

"If that (the strategy) is the reason we failed, that's what we have to discuss."

In the days that followed, many fans and some high-profile names, including former national striker Aleksandar Duric, called for Stange's head.

Reports about the German being involved in a bust-up over tactics with a senior player, which sparked a dressing room divide, and alleged favouritism towards junior players, also emerged.

Stange took over the reins and announced his intention to implement a new philosophy of football: a high intensity, passing-and-pressing game.

But, in his first major tournament as Singapore coach, the Lions lost 1-2 to Thailand after conceding a late penalty, before beating Myanmar 4-2.

But, in the do-or-die match against Causeway rivals Malaysia, a contentious penalty in injury time handed the Tigers the advantage, and they ran out 3-1 victors.

This article was first published on Dec 19, 2014.
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