Stange's strategy against Syria: Shut down their wingers

SOAK AND STRIKE: National coach Bernd Stange wants the Lions to set up some counter-attacks to exploit weaknesses in the Syria defence.

Singapore national coach Bernd Stange believes that the key to neutralising Syria in Friday’s World Cup qualifier will be shutting down their wingers.
This likely means extra drills for Nazrul Ahmad Nazari and Fazrul Nawaz on the right flank, and Shaiful Esah and Hafiz Abu Sujad down the left, to keep things tight.
With a sturdy midfield core of Hariss Harun, Safuwan Baharudin and Izzdin Shafiq, the Lions believe they can cope if the talented Syrian attackers are forced infield.
After analysing the Lions’ previous two encounters with Syria in 2013 - a 2-1 home win and a 4-0 away defeat - as well as the Syrians’ thumping 6-0 win over Afghanistan in June, Stange said: “We have to close them down on the wings.
“It is very, very important for us because it is also a weakness of our national team as full backs are always trying to overlap in the modern international game.
“We have to improve our defending over the wings because this story continued against Qatar in the second half when we got more and more tired and conceded four goals.”
In the friendly tune up in Doha last Friday, the Lions entered the halftime break unscathed, but collapsed in the second period and lost 4-0.
Read the full report in our print edition on Sept 1.
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Under-15s coach Selvaraj wants Cubs to be brave for daunting mission

TOUGH START: Singapore U-15 coach V Selvaraj's (above, far left) boys will meet Thailand, winners of the AFC U-16 tournament in 1998, in the first match of the qualifiers. 

They are hosts of their qualifying group, but few give Singapore any hope of making the 2016 AFC Under-16 Championship.

Only the winners of each of the 11 qualifying groups are guaranteed a spot in the Finals and the four best second-placed teams will also earn passage to the tournament next September in India.

Singapore are in Group H, drawn alongside heavyweights North Korea and Thailand, as well as regional minnows Cambodia.

The U-15s will open their campaign tomorrow against their Thai counterparts at the Jalan Besar Stadium and coach V Selvaraj is not about to throw in the towel.

At the team's base at the Peninsular Excelsior Hotel yesterday, the former Malaysia Cup double-winner believes playing at home will help his boys.

When The New Paper asked Selvaraj what his team need to qualify, he said: "Luck at the right time plays a big part.

"And heart... The whole team need to have it.

"That kind of mentality, to compete, to fight against our opponents, no matter how big or strong they are.

"Psychologically, show the right spirit, encourage one another all the way.

"Especially when the chips are down, one-nil down, or making mistakes. This is the time we need the team to have that heart."

North Korea are the most successful nation in the 16 editions of the AFC age-group tournament, winning two of the last three competitions (2010 and 2014) and finishing runners-up in 2004 and 2006.

Thailand, meanwhile, won the tournament once, in 1998, and are regarded as South-east Asia's top footballing nation.

Singapore have played in just one edition of the AFC U-16 Championship, when they automatically qualified for the tournament as hosts in 2006.

That team, featuring current national players Izwan Mahbud, Hariss Harun, Gabriel Quak, Izzdin Shafiq and Hafiz Abu Sujad, failed to make it out of the opening round, after they were drawn in a group featuring Japan, South Korea and Nepal.


Selvaraj's preparations for this week's qualifiers began with the AFF U-16 Championship in Cambodia in July, when Singapore finished third in a group of five teams, behind Australia and Myanmar, but ahead of the Philippines and hosts Cambodia.

He then had the chance to test his Cubs in the Lion City Cup, where they lost 3-0 to their counterparts from English side Tottenham Hotspur, conceding all three goals in the first half.

The 46-year-old coach has since been drilling into his charges the importance of settling quickly in games to avoid a repeat of the early collapse against Spurs.

It has not been easy preparing the Singapore side, with most of the players sitting for exams recently, but Selvaraj is thankful to the Football Association of Singapore and the Ministry of Education for excusing the boys from school this week for the tournament.

While he noted the physical superiority of the North Koreans and the quickness and technique of the Thais, Selvaraj vowed his team would not simply defend against the big guns.

"We won't sit back, (or just aim to) concede less... We will have the right balance," he said.

"I believe these boys have the confidence and quality.

"My most important message to them is, after the game when they walk out, they should have no regrets."


AKMAL AZMAN (midfielder)

The team's captain, the Singapore Sports School midfielder (right) will have to stamp his authority if the Cubs are to do well.

JOEL CHEW (midfielder)

The pint-sized Joel is the team's link between midfield and attack. He is technically sound and fearless.

But he (right) has a tough task to deliver against bigger, stronger opponents.


Ben  has had training stints at Arsenal's youth academy in London and has developed a telepathic understanding with Joel, whom he played with at local academy JSSL-Arsenal.

AFC U-16 Qualifiers


Grandstand tickets are priced at $10 and $5 for concession holders, and will be on sale from noon today online at and at AXS machines, until 4pm on matchdays.

Tickets will go on sale at the North Gate of Jalan Besar Stadium one day before matchdays from 10am to 5pm, subject to availability.


Tomorrow to Sunday


Jalan Besar Stadium



  • North Korea v Cambodia (5pm)
  • Singapore v Thailand (8pm)


  • Cambodia v Thailand (5pm)
  • Singapore v North Korea (8pm)


  • North Korea v Thailand (5pm)
  • Singapore v Cambodia (8pm)

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Down, but not out

Vanessa falls at water jump, but recovers spectacularly

She recalled how it all started so smoothly when she kicked off her attempt to win gold in the 'A' Division 2,000m steeplechase at the National Inter-school Track and Field Championship in April.

Vanessa Lee appeared to be cruising to victory, building a comfortable lead over her rivals after clearing the first hurdle at the Bukit Gombak Stadium.

The Victoria Junior College student didn't know that disaster was looming.

The water jump was next and, as Vanessa (above) prepared for her first attempt at the obstacle, the 17-year-old steeled her nerves and told herself: "Okay, I can do this."

Moments later, she fell into the water.

Breaking into peals of laughter as she looked back on the incident, Vanessa told The New Paper: "There were usually no water hurdles when we practise, and I'd never seen a real water hurdle before.

"My coach told us the whole pit would be filled with water, but somehow I couldn't imagine what a full pit would look like - until I got closer and closer to it.

"And then I jumped, and I fell.

"My whole body plunged in and I was completely drenched!"

What happened next, however, was remarkable.

The 1.55m-tall athlete picked herself up and ran the race of her life, storming to a gold medal in a new national junior record and meet time of 8min 0.94sec.

"I came out of water pretty quickly, partly because I was afraid of getting stepped on," Vanessa said, still giggling.

"I also saw that my senior had overtaken me, but I could also hear my friends and coach cheering for me.

"I wanted to win for my teammates because we were also aiming to be the overall champions."

In secondary school, Vanessa was a member of a string ensemble and she started running competitively only last year, at the annual inter-school cross country meet.

Despite having no formal training, she finished fourth.

She eventually settled on the steeplechase and credited her progress in athletics to the invaluable guidance from her coach and healthy competition with cross country teammate Nicole Low.


Said Vanessa: "Nicole and I are competitive on the track, but we're also supportive of each other both in athletics and in our studies."

VJC's cross country teacher-in-charge Tan Yew Hwee has always been impressed by Vanessa's never-say-die attitude.

He said: "I remember watching her at the cross country championship when she was in Sec 4.

"She started at the back and caught up to finish in fourth place - and she had no background in athletics.

"This year was her first time running the steeplechase, and she did it."

Vanessa has set herself new targets for next year.

Obviously, she aims to improve, at least maintaining her position in the cross country race, and breaking her own steeplechase record.

She quickly added: "And I do not want to fall into the water again."

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