Football

Tweak to Malaysia Cup schedule will boost Stange's side

National coach Bernd Stange has been charged with flying the Republic's flag in the first football match at the new National Stadium, leading a Singapore Selection against the famed black and white of Italian giants Juventus.

Kick-off is on Aug 16, and the German faces a couple of tricky areas to negotiate. The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) calendar has scheduled the final three Malaysia Cup group fixtures on Aug 12, 16 and 19.

LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad will want to do well in the competition after the Singapore side failed to make an impression in their defence of the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title.

AVAILABILITY 

With Stange's last national squad featuring 12 LionsXII players in an 18-man squad, and the German calling for the "best available players" to play against the Serie A champions, player availability is an issue that needs to be addressed. 

Speaking on the sidelines of a luncheon with Juventus officials at Fullerton Hotel yesterday, the 66-year-old said: "We should try to show our face against Juventus, to show what we have learnt and get a good result. 

"It's a matter of priorities, and the priority is that our best team are available for the match against Juventus."

The New Paper understands that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is in conversation with its Malaysian counterparts over the possibility of a compromise on the fixtures. 

"The dates of the Malaysia Cup fixtures are tentative at this point, and confirmation will only be made at a later time. Therefore, it is premature for us to comment on a possible clash of dates," said Gerard Wong, the FAS' director of marketing and communications. "However, we wish to reiterate that our staff coaches always work closely together."

Stange revealed that he has his eye on "one to three players" that he believes "have a chance to become Singaporeans", and they are likely to play some part in the match against Antonio Conte's Juventus. 

"I'm not ready to mention any names, but I have a few players in mind," he said. 

In an earlier interview, Stange told TNP that he was looking at Home United's versatile Frenchman Sirina Camara, 23, and Warriors FC's Argentine forward Nicholas Velez. 

World football governing body, Fifa, has a five-year residency requirement for foreign-born players who wish to play for their adopted country.

Canadian pair Jordan Webb, 26, and 24-year-old Sherif El-Masri, who have been drafted into S-League side Courts Young Lions - effectively the national Under-23 side - are also being tracked by the FAS. 

El-Masri arrived in 2009 with Home United, while Webb's first Singapore stint - with Hougang United - kicked off in 2010.

"I'm looking for younger players for a bright future for Singapore football," said Stange.

"For now, our national team is all-local and very young. It would be good to add one or two top players who are available and ready to play for Singapore."