Striker options please Stange

Singapore national football coach, Bernd Stange (centre), talking to striker Qiu Li (left).

SINGAPORE - He tamed the ball with a touch, swivelled, and let fly with a show-stopping volley that drew gasps from the crowd at the Toa Payoh Stadium as it dipped into goal.

Qiu Li's 30-metre effort in Balestier Khalsa's 3-1 win over Hougang United on Monday night was his eighth of the season, making him the top Singaporean scorer in the S-League.

The striker is very much on Bernd Stange's mind.

The German will lead the Lions out against Oman on Aug 14 in Group A of the Asian Cup qualifiers in his first competitive fixture as Singapore coach.

The 65-year-old is looking for goals as he plots a shock win to kickstart his football revolution in the Republic, and Qiu Li could well play a starring role.

"Qiu Li is exciting to watch - he scored a wonderful goal. For us to win, we need players to score and quality players like Qiu Li can help," Stange said.

"If he continues to score week-in week-out in the S-League, he is an option."

Qiu Li was given a massage at the sidelines of the Geylang Lorong 12 field on Tuesday, and told to go home to recover from his exertions the previous night, as Stange put his charges through a 50-minute training session.

Dangerous

The 32-year-old is not yet an automatic choice for the former Belarus coach, who has a resurgent Indra Sahdan and Shahril Ishak to consider, as well as LionsXII forward Shahfiq Ghani.

"We have at least four forwards to consider - that makes us more dangerous and can help us win," said Stange.

"I've been impressed by how Indra has played for Home United in different positions - he starts as a forward, then goes to play in midfield. He's fast and dangerous."

Indra, 34, has looked like a player reborn this year, a rejuvenation he attributes to the fitness regime at Home, and he shares Stange's confidence.

"We are quietly confident that we can get a result over Oman and we hope to take advantage of being familiar with the artificial surface at Jalan Besar," he said.

"I'm more comfortable playing in a supporting role these days, and Shahril, Qiu Li and I complement each other even though none of us are out-and-out strikers.

"If we do play together, there'll be mobility and changing of positions, which could work out well for us."

While Stange warned against falling prey to Oman's counterattacking style of football, team captain Shahril spoke of the mood in the Lions camp.

"Everyone is fighting for a place in the first 11, and there is a lot of commitment in training.

Having said that, team bonding is great and that's always a good thing," Shahril told The New Paper.

High spirits aside, Stange is acutely aware of the gulf in standards between Oman and his Lions, but that has not dulled his optimism.

He said: "Oman are a better team than Singapore, that's true. But, for me, that means nothing.

"We are weaker, but we are playing at home and we want to win this match.

"If we don't, we will just have to work harder."

 

shamiro@sph.com.sg

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