Lions to make changes in hunt for goals against Cambodia
Attackers Sahil and Faris set to start as Lions go in search of goals
SINGAPORE v CAMBODIA
(Tomorrow, 7.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
National coach Bernd Stange could make up to five changes to his starting line-up, as he tries to get his team firing in their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Cambodia at the National Stadium tomorrow night.
The Lions were second best in their 1-0 win over Afghanistan last Thursday, relying on a 72nd-minute goal by Khairul Amri off a corner-kick to earn the three points in what the German called a "dirty win".
Midfield stars Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin, who missed the win because of suspension, were always going to reclaim their places in the starting 11.
It is believed Stange is ready to ring the changes in other areas of the team as well.
The most significant change could see striker Sahil Suhaimi, who has had a start-stop season at club level with Fandi Ahmad's LionsXII team, replace experienced skipper Shahril Ishak and play just behind main attacker Amri.
Winger Faris Ramli, who came on for Shahril at half-time against Afghanistan and went on to earn and deliver the corner-kick that led to Amri's goal, could also come in for Fazrul Nawaz on the right flank.
Set-piece specialist Shaiful Esah, meanwhile, is struggling with an Achilles injury and, if he does not recover in time, his left-back spot would likely go to Shakir Hamzah.
Stange, however, chose to play his cards close to his chest during the team's training session at Geylang Field yesterday evening.
When asked if he would adopt an attack-minded line-up against minnows Cambodia, who have shipped 14 goals and scored zero in four qualifying matches so far, he replied with a smile: "Absolutely confidential."
The coach insisted that he would be making a grave mistake if he set his side up to thump the Angkor Warriors, whom Singapore beat 4-0 in Phnom Penh on June 11 to kick off their qualifying campaign.
A headline-grabbing goalless draw with Japan in Saitama followed, before a battling 1-0 defeat by Syria in Oman and the Afghanistan win mean the Lions sit third in Group E with seven points.
But Syria, Singapore's main rivals for the runners-up spot in the group that would guarantee a place at the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, have a goal difference of 10, whereas Stange's charges boast a goal difference of just four.
GOING FOR POINTS
Said Stange: "Many fans have told us we have to score goals against Cambodia, but do you know what we have to do? Go to 10 points.
"All the other things are in God's hands. We will try to score goals.
"To tell the (players) to kick Cambodia out with six or seven goals, I think we don't have the right.
"And we could struggle if I give such a direction.
"First, we have to win. It's fantastic if we score a few goals."
Hariss, who has worn the captain's armband in all three qualifiers before the Afghanistan game, echoed his coach's warning.
"It'll be important to score goals, and we want to score as many as we can," said the 24-year-old midfield general.
"But most important thing is to get the points on the board."
Hariss added the team were not leaving anything to chance in preparations, even though Cambodia have an appalling record against Singapore.
The Lions have triumphed in seven meetings between the two nations since 2000, with an aggregate score of 22-2.
Said Hariss: "We've seen videos of the Cambodia team and I'm sure we'll see lots more before game day.
"We're well prepared, like we were when we got the result away. We cannot allow (complacency) to creep into our team.
"A lot of our fans will expect a result, especially after the result we got in the first game away.
"For us, we know we have the players to get the job done to get the goals and the points.
"So, like we did in the first game away, we're going to come up with a plan and execute it, and I'm sure we'll do fine."