Suzuki Cup: Testy coaches, ahead of tense clash

The moment Singapore coach Bernd Stange caught sight of the figure entering the room at the M Hotel yesterday, he zipped through his final words to end his part of the press conference and hurried off.

Radojko Avramovic was late for the pre-match press conference and the German had started proceedings off because he didn't want to wait.

Stange's Lions will face an Avramovic-led Myanmar in an AFF Suzuki Cup Group B encounter tonight at the National Stadium. The game is almost certainly a must-win fixture for the tournament co-hosts and the tension is coming to a boil.

Avramovic turned up the heat on his former charges, when he said: "They are under pressure, not us."

"They are under pressure," the Serb repeated, for effect.

Avramovic oversaw the most successful period in the Republic's football history with three Suzuki Cup wins during his nine-year tenure with the Lions and his image is plastered across the walls of Jalan Besar Stadium, a constant reminder of the peaks that were once scaled.

Tonight, he could come back to haunt the nation he led to so much glory.

Victory over Singapore will boot the co-hosts and defending champions out of the competition even before Saturday's final group fixtures.

This, after a luckless Singapore fell 1-2 to Thailand in their opening game last Sunday, with Myanmar playing out a 0-0 draw with Malaysia.

The gravity of the situation is not lost on Stange.

"The picture is clear, we have to win the next two matches. Now we have a job to do against Myanmar," the German said. "I am quite confident that we can do that."


Stange already has a plan in place. He had prepared a dossier of Myanmar, including each individual player, to aid Singapore's cause, especially since Avramovic knows the Lions like the back of his hand.

"Expect an attacking Singapore team. If the players continue to play like they did against Thailand, it should be enough to beat Myanmar," said Stange.

"We don't expect Myanmar to dominate the game... we expect them to be compact and going for the counter-attack, so we have to be patient."

Avramovic did not care for the assumptions made about his Myanmar side and instead kicked off the traditional pre-match mind games.

"(Stange) can say what he wants - against Malaysia, we tried to score, so we are not a defensive team," said the former Notts County goalkeeper.

Avramovic's game face softened a little later when he talked about leading Myanmar out against his former charges.

"There will be mixed feelings... and sure, it will be emotional. But, in the end, it is a competition and this a very important game for Myanmar, and for Singapore," he said.

"I will try to do my job." He insisted that the players' jobs were more critical.

"There is too much talk (about my knowledge of Singapore). We can give players guidelines, but it is the players who make decisions on the field," he said.

Tonight's fixture will provide Stange with an opportunity to stamp his mark on Singapore football and, when asked about his thoughts on Myanmar, the former Iraq coach hinted he was aware of the additional significance.

He said: "Both (Avramovic and I) are new to our teams, I respect my colleague and Myanmar, and tomorrow we will see how good we are."

This article was first published on November 26, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.