Raddy: It's nice to face Lions

He was the brains behind three of Singapore's four ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup triumphs.

Come November, however, and Raddy Avramovic - now Myanmar national coach - could very well be plotting the Lions' downfall in the tournament.

And the Serb is relishing the prospect of facing his former team.

In a phone interview with The Straits Times, the 64-year-old, who sounded upbeat in his trademark raspy voice, said: "It will be nice to play Singapore in the Suzuki Cup, to come back and see the familiar faces, especially the players I've brought up to the national team.

"Of course, it will be strange to come back and be on the opposite side but there is a job to do on the field."

Co-hosts Singapore are grouped in the opening Suzuki Cup stage with Malaysia, Thailand and the winner of a qualification tournament, widely tipped to be Myanmar, the top-ranked side (world No. 160) among the five teams.

Brunei, Timor-Leste, Laos and Cambodia are the other sides vying for the two available spots.

As recently as two years ago, Avramovic was the toast of the Singapore football fans when he guided the Lions to a record fourth ASEAN title.

During his nine-year tenure, he handed out national debuts to current stalwarts like Safuwan Baharudin, Hariss Harun and Zulfahmi Arifin.

He also appointed Shahril Ishak as national captain four years ago, a position the player still holds today.The usually stern Avramovic turned light-hearted when asked about his legacy with the Lions, laughing as he said: "Don't you think I made the right decisions?

"The fact that they are still playing for Singapore proved I was right in selecting them.

"I feel like I left Singapore in good hands."

Avramovic, who coached Singapore from 2003 to 2012, is now focused on getting Myanmar to qualify for the Suzuki Cup.

The tactician said he is confident of his midfield and the attack, spearheaded by striker Kyaw Ko Ko.

The Yangon United hitman was joint-top scorer at last year's SEA Games with three goals but could not prevent Myanmar from exiting at the group stage.

He also scored five goals when Myanmar clinched a bronze at the 2011 SEA Games.

Avramovic said he will use a tournament in the Philippines next month to "find solutions" in defence, in particular, filling the stopper position.

However, the former professional goalkeeper does not believe his intimate knowledge of the Lions will prove advantageous should they meet in the Suzuki Cup.

He said: "The players are the ones making decisions on the pitch in critical moments.

"The players' motivation will make a big difference."

However, ex-national goalkeeper Lionel Lewis said his former coach will definitely come up with a special plan to neutralise Singapore.

Said Lewis, who won the ASEAN title twice under Avramovic: "(Raddy) always has a specific plan for each opponent we play.

"He knows Singapore's players well and will surely come up with something to eliminate our strengths."

He added jokingly: "Plus, he will have no shortage of match videos of Singapore."


This article was first published on August 9, 2014.
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