Lions eye ranking points for easier route to Asian Cup finals
Stange's charges eye ranking points for an easier path to 2019 Asian Cup
AFGHANISTAN v SINGAPORE
(Tonight, 6.30pm, Takhti Stadium, Teheran)
The Lions have secured third place in Group E of the World Cup /Asian Cup qualifiers, which means they will be in the final round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
They play their final group encounter tonight against Afghanistan at a neutral venue in Teheran, and their opponents cannot catch them, but Bernd Stange's Singapore side insist that there is still much to play for, in what will be the German coach's final assignment with the Lions.
With world ranking points up for grabs, and with those points determining where the Lions will be placed in the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers that kick off next March, no one is taking his eye off the ball.
"It has been a good qualifying campaign so far, and we want to end it with a good result. We also want to make sure we do well because our world ranking is important to us.
"Doing well in this match will boost our ranking and give us a better draw for the next round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifications next year," said skipper Shahril Ishak, who pointed out that Afghanistan also have reason to show up.
"We may have secured third position in our group, but Afghanistan will be going all out still, because they want to make sure they are one of the four best fourth-placed teams, and make it to the next round of qualification as well."
The 2019 Asian Cup Finals will see 24 teams in action, up from 16.
Stange, 68, declined to speak about the subject of his last game as Lions' coach, but he asserted in a statement that spirits were high in the Singapore camp.
"There is strong camaraderie among the players, coaches and backroom officials.
"Our players know that everyone has a chance to be in the starting line-up tomorrow and they have been working hard during training to impress," said Stange.
"Both teams will aim to achieve three points (tonight) and I want to see a big fight from our players to deliver a result.
"We know that every single result is important for world ranking, which will give us a good position for the next draw."
Stange drew attention to the record at these qualifiers - three wins and a 0-0 with Japan in Saitama that is surely the biggest result of his three years as Lions' coach.
He insisted that the team he has assembled will be good enough for Singapore to qualify for the Asian Cup Finals for the first time.
"We are on track towards making history by qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup and this is possible only because of our players' hard work and commitment and our backroom officials' dedication," he said.
"I am confident that we will do well in the next stage of the qualifiers if we keep this team together."
Today’s other fixture
- Japan v Syria (6.35pm)
Sundram set for Lions role
As Bernd Stange takes charge of the national football team for the last time tonight, and Fandi Ahmad set to leave the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), it looks as if V Sundramoorthy will step up to take the reins of the Lions, at least on an interim basis.
The New Paper understands that the Tampines Rovers coach is the frontrunner to take charge after Stange's contract runs out on April 15. The FAS will appoint a new national coach soon.
His first assignment will be a friendly quadrangular in Myanmar in the first week of June. Vietnam and Hong Kong are the other two teams.
Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra is all for the move.
The 44-year-old lawyer said: "I've always rated Sundram as a prospective national coach and the club will support anyone with a national calling, whether he is a player or a coach.
"Over the past year, we have released him to join the national team as assistant coach. so it is not something new." - DAVID LEE