Tardy confident U-22 boys will come good at SEA Games
S'pore U-22 coach Tardy defiant despite three straight losses at Dubai Cup
They have lost all three games at the Dubai Cup in the United Arab Emirates so far.
The Singapore Under-22 team's latest reverse - a 3-1 loss to bitter rivals Malaysia on Sunday night - must have stung the most.
But coach Richard Tardy insists it isn't all doom and gloom, as they use the tournament in the Middle East as part of their preparations for August's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.
In a phone interview with The New Paper yesterday, the Frenchman said he was pleased with what he has seen of his squad in the three matches.
"We have played three positive games, but got three negative results," said Tardy, whose side will meet Thailand in their final match today.
"From the beginning (of the trip), I have said what is most important to me is the team's performance, as well as the players' attitude off the field. And they have been good.
"Now in my mind, I know who can compete for us at the SEA Games... I know 90 per cent of the squad."
Having watched regional rivals Malaysia and Thailand in action, the 66-year-old, who coached Rwanda to the Under-17 World Cup in 2011, is confident that a full-strength Singapore side could match the two teams.
Thailand have won the football gold at 10 of the past 12 editions of the SEA Games, with Malaysia's triumphs in 2009 and 2011 the only blips in the War Elephants' remarkable record.
In Dubai, Tardy is without local football icon Fandi Ahmad's sons - defender Irfan (with senior national team) and striker Ikhsan (national service) - and midfielder Joshua Pereira (injury).
"From the time we started preparations for the SEA Games last year, at no one time have we had a full team," said Tardy.
"If we have a full team, we can compete. We are not a country who can miss four or five key players, and have other guys who come in and can perform at the same level.
"We need a full team to compete at the SEA Games and, with players like Irfan, Ikhsan and Joshua, I think we can expect better results.
“With players like Irfan, Ikhsan and Joshua, we can expect better results.”Singapore Under-22 coach Richard Tardy, on the absence of players such as Irfan Fandi (with senior national team), Ikhsan Fandi (national service) and Joshua Pereira (injury)
"The AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers in Myanmar (from July 19 to 23) will give us a better feeling about what this team can do at the SEA Games."
Tardy, however, knows that there is still work to be done.
His team's defensive frailties and lack of cutting edge up front have been highlighted in Dubai.
In the opening match against the UAE, they conceded a penalty in just the second minute, but regrouped to hold firm until the final 15 minutes, when they shipped three goals to lose 4-0.
In their second game against Jordan, Tardy fielded a different team, who conceded early in each half and went down 2-0.
And, on Sunday, sloppy defending allowed Malaysia to take the lead in the 15th minute from a long throw-in, before a second goal was conceded a minute later.
Even though Adam Swandi equalised with a free-kick before half-time, the team were punished on the counter-attack in the final minute of the game and were beaten 3-1.
"This (conceding sloppy goals) is something we must fight against," said Tardy. "We must work hard in the last third of the pitch, on both ends.
"We are missing quality and speed defensively, and we were not strong enough in one-versus-one situations.
"But we have played strong teams here, stronger than teams like Hong Kong (whom Singapore beat 5-0 last July), and I am happy with the spirit we have showed."