Sundram tells Lions not to lose their heads
Sundram warns men to stay calm ahead of hosts' expected early charge
REPORTING FROM YANGON
AYA BANK CUP
MYANMAR v SINGAPORE
(Today, 7.25pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
Under the piercing row of spotlights at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium, and with possibly a capacity crowd of 35,000 in attendance, the Lions clash with hosts Myanmar today is set to be a baptism of fire for new Singapore national football coach V Sundramoorthy.
But the 50-year-old is unfazed, and has challenged his players to stake an early claim for a place in his Suzuki Cup squad for the Asean showpiece in November.
"Make a statement with a strong performance," was what he demanded of his players, ahead of the AYA Bank Cup quadrangular here.
"As hosts, Myanmar will be eager to impress and will pressure and attack us from the start.
"It's important that we keep our composure.
"With the limited time that we have had, the boys have trained well, and it is up to them to translate this into the match," added Sundram.
He may have had just six days to train with the Lions, but Sundram should be comforted by the fact that no less than 15 of his 23-man team have worked with him at the LionsXII in 2012 and 2013, when they won the Malaysian Super League.
He could deploy a flexible formation that toggles between 4-2-3-1 and 4-5-1 that shifts into a 4-3-3 on the attack, which was the favoured shape for his predecessor, Bernd Stange.
Coincidentally, Stange's first game in charge of Singapore was also here back in 2013, when the Lions pulled off a 2-0 victory.
While the 68-year-old German tried to establish a pass-and-move style with his Lions, the team were never able to make it second nature.
Sundram is more in favour of playing to his players' strengths, while adding his own tactical input.
Gone are Stange's strange two-sided matches between married players and the unmarried, or between the younger and the older, and in its place are tactical drills that are detailed and specific, which make for longer and more intense training sessions.
Said winger Gabriel Quak: "Coach Sundram wants our shape and positions, especially while defending, to be precise.
"Even when a small thing is out of place during practice, he will get us to restart and do it again."
Midfield dynamo Hariss Harun, who is set to captain the team and play in the heart of defence, added: "Under coach Bernd, we would be playing monkey (rondo), or young versus old, but under coach Sundram, we pay more attention to match scenarios."
Also, while both coaches are not averse to handing our first caps, age is not as much of a factor for Sundram.
Attacking midfielder Azhar Sairudin, who turns 30 in September, looks set to be handed his international debut from the start, as his consistently creative displays for Home United in the S.League looks to have paid dividends.
"We have to throw him in and see where he stands, he is training well, so we'll see how he performs," said Sundram.
The Lions have won just four of their last 10 games and with less than six months to go before the Suzuki Cup, which will be co-hosted by Myanmar and Philippines, Hariss is keen to start building a winning momentum and mentality.
The 25-year-old, who has already won four major titles since his move to Johor Darul Ta'zim I in 2014, said: "The winning mentality is infectious and important because it does a lot of good for our confidence and morale.
"We won't be underestimating this young Myanmar side, but perhaps we gave them a bit too much respect to let them come back to 1-1 before we edged them 2-1 in our last meeting in March."
Aware of Singapore's 17-match unbeaten run against tonight's opponents, Sundram said: "It is a good record for us and we intend to keep that intact."
- Probable Singapore starting 11: Hassan Sunny, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari, Baihakki Khaizan, Hariss Harun, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Gabriel Quak, Izzdin Shafiq, Safuwan Baharudin, Azhar Sairudin, Faris Ramli, Fazrul Nawaz
Coach Sundram wants our shape and positions, especially while defending, to be precise. Even when a small thing is out of place during practice, he will get us to restart and do it again.
- Gabriel Quak on the new Singapore coach
Watch national teams on Eleven
Eleven Sports Network has pushed out a seven-day free trial from Tuesday for its new online streaming service and app for fans to catch the Singapore senior and Under-21 football teams in action this week.
The Lions will play at the Aya Bank Cup under new national coach V Sundramoorthy. They take on hosts Myanmar today, with the winners meeting either Hong Kong or Vietnam in the final on Monday.
Singapore's U-21s will be in action at the inaugural Nations Cup in Malacca. The Young Lions face Malaysia today and either Thailand or Vietnam on Sunday.
The matches are available exclusively on Eleven (Singtel TV Ch 109) and Eleven Sports (Ch 110), or via the new streaming service at www.elevensports.sg, or on the app.
The seven-day trial is limited to only the online streaming and app, which can be downloaded from Google Play and the App Store.