Football: Singapore confident of Suzuki title, matchfixing worry lurks

Players and officials from the national team pose for a picture on the the pitch as they tour the Sports Hub on 21 Nov 2014 before the AFF Suzuki Cup.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's embattled coach Bernd Stange was adamant his side had all the ingredients to win another Suzuki Cup title as authorities ramped up efforts to keep the long standing threat of match-fixing at bay.

The defending champions get their campaign underway on Sunday against favourites Thailand in the first of three tricky Group B matches, with old rivals Malaysia and Myanmar, under the guidance of former coach Raddy Avramovic, to follow.

The much-travelled Stange has endured a tricky 18 months in charge with many groans from local media as he struggles to implement his passing, high tempo style amid a number of defeats with a young team.

However, those set-backs have not dimmed his hopes of winning the eight-team tournament for Southeast Asian sides.

"We are going to win this tournament, there will be no excuses from us," the German said at Saturday's pre-tournament media day flanked by coaches from three other teams in Group B.

"We have a very balanced team with experienced players from the last Suzuki Cup-winning squad, a group of players in the 23 to 25 age bracket, as well as a couple of youngsters. "Now we have to perform but we will also have the advantage of 40,000 fans supporting us."

Their opening fixture on Sunday at the new National Stadium will be the first since it opened in June, but the poor state of the pitch means none of the teams will be able to train on it in between matches.

The tournament opens with Philippines taking on Laos before co-hosts Vietnam face Indonesia in Group A action in Hanoi on Saturday.

The Filipinos, at 129th in the world, are the best rated side of the eight, according to the FIFA rankings, with the lowly region more famed for being the centre of global match-fixing issues.

On Saturday, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the citystate's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) conducted a workshop for the Group B sides to warn them of the threat of match-fixing.

"The FAS has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to match-fixing and football corruption," the body said.

"Part of our approach towards combating these two scourges includes inviting the relevant authorities to conduct annual briefings for officials, players and staff on what constitutes match-fixing and football corruption."