A world sensation if we hold Japan, says Singapore boss

Coach Bernd Stange said Singapore is unlikely to trouble Japan in their 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
PHOTO: Berita Harian

TOKYO - Singapore have the talent to qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time but are unlikely to trouble Japan in their 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, their German coach Bernd Stange said.

Perennial qualifiers Japan are fully expected to run up a large total at Saitama World Cup stadium against a side ranked 154th in the world by FIFA and who last beat the 'Samurai Blue' in a friendly in 1978.

"It's a highlight and all players want to play in a great football party," Stange told reporters on Monday of the opportunity to play against the likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

"I know Japan will have the ball all the time and dominate us and create a lot of problems but I just want us to stay calm and play the way we can. Nothing special, just what we can."

Japan warmed up for their opening Group E fixture by thrashing former Asian champions Iraq 4-0 in Yokohama on Thursday as Singapore were kicking-off their dual World Cup and Asian Cup campaign by also winning 4-0 in Cambodia.

Stange, whose side drew 2-2 at home to tiny Guam in a March friendly, was under no illusions about the task facing Singapore.

"If the quality of your opponent is much, much higher you need luck and unbelievable commitment," the former Belarus boss said.

"It always happens in football that second or third division teams beat top teams in a cup competition but it's very, very seldom. At the end of the day, the quality makes the decision about the result.

"We try to make a good result. What would be a good result? It would be a world sensation if we take a draw from Japan."

Group E also contains Afghanistan and Syria, with only the top side after the home and away matches guaranteed a place in the next round of World Cup qualifiers and a spot at the 2019 Asian Cup.

Stange, though, was confident that his side had enough to win through subsequent qualifying rounds to claim one of the 24 spots available at the Asian Cup for the 39 teams still in the second round.

"I believe in this team. I'm quite confident that the team can make first time in history the qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates," he said.