Full Lions squad trains to tackle Oman

Shariff Samat (left) and Khairul Amri taking part in training session.

SINGAPORE - Training for the national football team was supposed to start at 8am on Saturday but the players had set their alarm clocks early.

They reported to Jalan Besar Stadium an hour ahead of schedule to get their body-fat measured, and that made Lions coach Bernd Stange a happy man.

He told The Sunday Times: "After two days of festivities, not one of them came back heavier, not even by a gram.

"They came in at 7am of their own accord. I am very happy with their professionalism."

Saturday was the first time the German had all 23 players at his disposal since training started two Saturdays ago. Before that, some of his men had to miss sessions owing to S-League club commitments.

With Stange set to make his competitive debut as Singapore coach against Oman in Wednesday's Asian Cup qualifier, he is thankful that he will have his entire squad to work with over the next few days.

He said: "In Europe, national teams usually get all their players for four days. I must thank the S-League for releasing the players.

"We are absolutely on track in our preparations against Oman. There is a good feeling in the team and all the players are in good spirits."

At Saturday's session, the former East Germany, Iraq and Belarus national coach continued to instill his brand of high-tempo, high-pressure and quick-passing football into the Lions.

Not only did Stange want his men to be competent in pinging the ball around at speed and moving rapidly into space, he also demands quality finishing.

Centre-backs Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin were not spared the shooting drills, in which they had to beat the goalkeeper with a variety of shots including from distance and at close-range as well as volleying high balls and lobbing from outside the box.

Skipper Shahril Ishak said: "We have a very hard game coming up but the boys have bonded well and we want to go out there to compete against Oman.

"Our friendlies against Laos and Myanmar showed that we are capable of playing this new style of football but Oman will be a step up. We will certainly go out there, give our best and try to compete."

While the team currently have a clean bill of health, Singapore will be without key left-backs, the overlapping Shakir Hamzah and set-piece expert Shaiful Esah, both of whom withdrew with injuries.

In their places, twice-capped Hafiz Abu Sujad and the uncapped Zulfadli Zainal Abidin were mobilised.

Stange remained positive, even though it looks as if he has to pitch in one of these untested rookies against Oman.

Said the 65-year-old: "Ideally, I would like to have two or three players fighting for a place in each position.

"Although Shakir and Shaiful are out, I now have another two players to consider in Hafiz and Zulfadli. That gives me four left-backs.

"I want to go to more Prime League games to identify more players. By the end of this year, we will have a powerful team."

meng@sph.com.sg

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