LionsXII: Fitter, faster and feistier

LionsXII: Fitter, faster and feistier
LionsXII coach V. Sundramoorthy (centre) will be looking to try and break down Kedah's defence.

SINGAPORE - The players are unchanged, the coach remains the same - for now at least - and their will to win is as strong as ever.

But as they kick off their Malaysia Cup journey against Kedah at Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday, do not expect to see the same Lions- XII from a month ago.

Those who recently spent time under new national coach Bernd Stange have returned fitter, faster and feistier.

"Not only has our stamina improved, we also keep the ball better and pass faster," said right-back Faritz Hameed.

He is among nine LionsXII players who featured in the 0-2 Asian Cup qualifying loss to Oman last week.

The German had put his troops through a gruelling training camp in the lead-up to the clash as he establishes a new, high-tempo, quick-passing style.

Utility player Hafiz Sujad, for instance, has seen his body fat dip from 12 per cent in June to as low as 5 per cent a fortnight ago.

It must be a scary thought for their rivals who were powerless to stop the LionsXII's charge to the Malaysian Super League title.

The local team won 10 of 11 games at home and conceded only 15 goals in 22 matches - a league-best.

Still, there is the fear of tinkering with a winning formula as the LionsXII played a mix of attacking football at home and a counter-attacking style dependent on set-pieces away.

"Individually, the national players have returned leaner and stronger - but as a team, we must not forget the way we played that won us the league, which was by attacking and defending as a unit," said full-back Irwan Shah, who was not called up for international duty.

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