Young Lions hope to bite back in S.League
Raab says the Young Lions have been positive even after SEA Games debacle
COURTS YOUNG LIONS v HOUGANG UNITED
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
A failed South-east Asia (SEA) Games campaign was followed immediately by the resignation of their coach Aide Iskandar.
Soon after, captain Al-Qaasimy Rahman and national defender Shakir Hamzah left the Courts Young Lions for the LionsXII in the Malaysian Super League.
Playmaker Shahfiq Ghani remains sidelined with a knee injury, while striker Irfan Fandi - one of the few bright sparks during the SEA Games - faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines as well, due to a thigh injury.
All new coach Juergen Raab and his Courts Young Lions can do is pick up the pieces and move forward.
The Under-23 side will have just 15 players on the team sheet for tonight's match against Hougang United at the Jalan Besar Stadium, as the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League resumes after a two-month break.
Several observers believe the Young Lions will continue to struggle during the second half of the season, even with the addition of wingers Jordan Webb and Sherif El-Masri.
Both Canadians are being tracked under the Foreign Sports Talent scheme, and have rejoined the side after leaving at the end of last season.
German Raab, who will make his coaching debut here tonight, is relishing the challenge of steering a group the majority of whom were in the Singapore team that even failed to get past the opening stage of the SEA Games tournament on home soil.
"The first step is to build the confidence back after the SEA Games," he told The New Paper yesterday, after the team's training session at Jalan Besar Stadium.
"Football is a daily business, so you cannot dwell on the past. The boys have been positive and very engaged the past few weeks.
"We have to show everyone that they are wrong about us. Yes, we lack experience, but we can show our quality in many (other) ways."
The 56-year-old was roped in last October as the SEA Games team's fitness coach, and has taken full charge of the side over the past month, following the departure of assistant coaches S Subramani and Kadir Yahaya.
The former East German international has had coaching spells in lower divisions in Germany and was assistant manager of Bundesliga side Borussia Moenchengladbach from 2008 to 2010.
As he waits for Shahfiq and Irfan to return, he will be anxious for Webb, 27, and El-Masri, 25, to get into the groove quickly as the duo have not played competitively for several months.
El-Masri, however, dismissed any fitness concerns.
He said: "My fitness is fine. I played for some semi-pro clubs while I was back home in Toronto and trained five times a week on average.
"For Jordan and I, it's just a case of adapting to the weather again. Other than that, I feel good.
"To be honest, the team are more or less the same. A lot of young guys, but we've got some good players like Anu (M Anumanthan), (Amirul) Adli and Adam (Swandi).
"We could surprise a few teams if they're not careful."
Tonight's match pits the league's bottom two teams against each other.
The Young Lions are last in the 10-team table, three points adrift of Hougang, but have four games in hand.
Both have won just once this season, and drew 1-1 in their last meeting in March.
WHO’S PLAYING WHEN
- Courts Young Lions v Hougang United (Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Home v Brunei DPMM (Yishun Stadium)
- Warriors FC v Courts Young Lions (Woodlands Stadium)
- Albirex Niigata v Balestier Khalsa (Jurong East Stadium)
- Hougang United v Tampines Rovers (Jalan Besar Stadium)
- Geylang International v Harimau Muda (Bedok Stadium)
*All games at 7.30pm.
WHO’S SCORING MOST
- Rafael Ramazotti (Brunei DPMM)
- Fazrul Nawaz (Warriors FC)
- Jozef Kaplan (Geylang)
- Nicolas Velez (Warriors)
- Miroslav Kristic (Balestier Khalsa)
- Rion Taki (Albirex)
- Robert Pericic (Balestier)
- Paulo Sergio (Brunei DPMM)
- Rodrigo Tosi (Tampines Rovers)
BY THE NUMBERS
Hougang have not beaten the Young Lions in their past five meetings. The Young Lions have won four of those games.