Stange prepares Lions for Suzuki Cup

Stange prepares Lions for Suzuki Cup

In less than 50 days, Singapore will defend their AFF Suzuki Cup title.

The Lions begin their final stretch of preparations with two friendlies against Hong Kong tonight and Macau next Tuesday.

In a bid to win the ASEAN crown for a record fifth time, national football coach Bernd Stange is using the two friendlies to iron out as many kinks as possible.


A lone victory in A internationals this year - and that too against world No. 199 Papua New Guinea - is unacceptable.

Said Stange: "We have to deliver results now. We cannot say everything will be fine on Nov 23 (in the Suzuki Cup Group B opener against Thailand).

"My first job after taking over was to rebuild the team, my second job is to deliver results.

"We need to win these matches and my expectation of the players is high."


Stange revealed that he is close to finalising his 22-man squad from a shortlist of 30 players.

He said: "We have a very balanced squad of youth and experience.

"I said I want two quality players in every position challenging for a place in the starting 11, and we are close to that."

The 66-year-old German coach looks to be on track.

Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud are both in-form goalkeepers who have won the Suzuki Cup.

Baihakki Khaizan and Safuwan Baharudin remain one of the best centre-back pairings in this region, and there is healthy competition between Shahdan Sulaiman and Zulfahmi Arifin to see who partners Hariss Harun in central midfield.

Even in attack, Stange feels confident enough about his options and will give only cameo appearances to skipper Shahril Ishak and chief striker Khairul Amri, who have just returned from injury.

The one weak department at this point is in the fullback positions, with left back Shaiful Esah the only experienced option as Shakir Hamzah, Madhu Mohana and Faritz Hameed are sidelined by injuries.

Afiq Yunos, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Ismadi Mukhtar, Amirul Adli and Al-Qaasimy Rahman all lack international experience.


The perennial question is, "Where are the goals going to come from?".

It seems Stange is close to finding an answer.

Amri has eight goals in all competitions this year, Fazrul Nawaz has 10 in the S.League.

Young guns like Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli, who impressed at the Asian Games, have netted 11 and nine times, respectively, in 2014.

Stange said: "Yes, of course it is good news that we have many players scoring now, and don't forget we also have Shahril Ishak, Shahfiq Ghani and Khairul Nizam."

The Lions have not scored in two attempts against Hong Kong under Stange, but he is confident all that will change tonight.


While it appears that Stange does not place as much emphasis on set-plays like his predecessor Radojko Avramovic, the current coach insisted he has a powerful arsenal of set-piece experts.

"We have specialists," said Stange, citing Shahril, Shaiful, Amri, Shaiful, Zulfahmi and Shahfiq - who grabbed a brace off free-kicks against Palestine at the recent Asian Games.

"What we want is a bit of everything, but everything coming together to help us play good football and win."


Another area of concern for Stange is speed, which is the strength of group rivals Malaysia and Thailand.

"There is still a big gap from where I want us to be," he said.

"We have to work on speed. How fast we switch on in attack, defence and in transition will be key.

"From what I've seen, Thailand are ahead of us in terms of experience, speed and power.

"But, in tournaments like these, sometimes it doesn't matter because I'm confident our players will rise to the occasion with the home support."

This article was first published on October 10, 2014.
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