Lions coach Stange wants to end with a bang
Lions coach pays tribute to his players as he targets two wins, starting tonight
SINGAPORE v MYANMAR
(Tonight, 7.45pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
Judge us by our results, not by the way we play.
That was the message of national football coach Bernd Stange, ahead of tonight's international friendly with Myanmar at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The game will be the Lions' final tune-up before their World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Afghanistan on Tuesday, which will be played Teheran.
German Stange is set to leave his post when his contract runs out in mid-April after almost three years in charge.
During that time, the Lions flopped in the defence of the AFF Suzuki Cup title at home in 2014, but restored some pride when they kicked off their Group E campaign on the road with a 4-0 thrashing of Cambodia and a 0-0 draw with mighty Japan in Saitama last June.
They have collected 10 points and are third in the group, ahead of next week's game against the Afghans, and are all but certain to make the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
The Lions have never qualified for Asia's biggest football competition and, while Stange will probably leave his post with the team in a good position to end that run, a huge swathe of local supporters remain dissatisfied, especially when he famously announced his desire to get the national team playing a high-pressing, pass-and-move style of football when he took on the job in 2013.
But at the pre-match press conference at the Amara Hotel yesterday, Stange said: "What does it mean to have good performances?
"We have 10 points from our qualifiers, and we want to be judged on our results... (so) I don't allow anybody to be too negative of our performances.
"Results are crucial, world rankings are crucial and don't forget we have a local team - we don't have any foreign (naturalised) players.
"I am happy with the reaction of the team, even though I have asked the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) in January not to plan (the year ahead) with me after the Afghanistan game.
"The players have reacted very, very professionally, and it shows that they are absolutely focused on their performance and it makes me a little bit proud even if I am going to leave.
"And that's why we want two good performances from the Myanmar and Afghanistan games.
"Our goal is absolutely clear: Try to win both matches."
Stange revealed he had a "good feeling" over tonight's match, having seen the spirit in the squad since they got together at the weekend.
The Lions are favourites tonight even though they are without chief striker Khairul Amri (calf injury) and centre back Madhu Mohana, who was not called up as he is suspended for the Afghanistan match.
Tonight's opponents, Myanmar, have seven players out of the 23-man squad promoted from the national youth team, which made a historic first appearance at the Under-20 World Cup last year.
Myanmar have big plans for this group, who have an average age of 22.5 years and who will be vital as they fight for home pride when they host the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
Training camps in Germany and South Korea have been lined up for the team, according to their coach Gerd Zeise.
"For us, it's a big event at the end of the year," said the German.
"All preparations are going in that direction to perform well.
"If you host, you must satisfy the spectators.
"So our target is the Suzuki Cup... (and this game) is an important test.
"I saw some of Singapore's matches - they are a very organised and aggressive side."
We have 10 points from our qualifiers, and we want to be judged on our results... (so) I don’t allow anybody to be too negative of our performances.
— Singapore coach Bernd Stange