Forget goal-fest, Stange just wants a win
Angry coach Stange lashes out at 'demands' made on Singapore players
SINGAPORE v CAMBODIA
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
It flashed across his face, staying there for the briefest of moments, before he turned his eyes downwards.
There was little doubt that Hariss Harun was perplexed by the words of Singapore coach Bernd Stange, and he was not alone, as the small crowd who were present at the Amara Hotel for the press conference ahead of tonight's World Cup/Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Cambodia also raised their eyebrows.
Stange blasted the local media, calling for journalists to do their job "much more professionally" and, in the same breath, insisting that there were too many demands placed on his team.
Shoulders pulled up, leaning into the microphone, Stange was angry over the way it had been portrayed that his players had been given a two-day break after the 1-0 win over Afghanistan last Thursday.
The 67-year-old said that "main newspapers" insulted the work ethic of his staff and players, presented lies, and led "officials, stakeholders and sponsors" to question his decision-making.
The German, who pointed out that the Lions had a morning recovery session and video analysis work on Saturday, as well as a Saturday evening session, maintained his defensive stance when The New Paper asked if a good performance tonight was important to win fans over, after Thursday's shoddy showing against Afghanistan.
Only 7,128 fans turned up on Thursday at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium to witness the 1-0 win.
"Fans are always demanding and journalists are demanding for top-class performances. We have to go to 10 points, that is much more important for me than asking for top-class performances," said Stange.
"All demand goals, goals, goals. We have to avoid that.
"Demands are too high for my team. We have to attack, but we're not going for permanent pressing - we're not able to (do that) - but we have to attack, dominate the game," he added.
Singapore are third in the five-team group, three points behind leaders Japan and two adrift of Syria.
The group winners and the four best runners-up from the eight groups in the Asian qualification roster will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifiers as well as Asian Cup Finals in 2019.
Cambodia have had little success against Singapore, losing the opening group fixture 4-0 in Phnom Penh.
But Stange was not taking anything for granted.
"I think we should be more realistic, we should not increase the demand for scoring goals, what happens if we are 0-0 after 60 minutes? We have to be patient."
The Lions will surely improve tonight with the return of midfield stars Hariss and Safuwan Baharudin.
But Stange revealed that first-choice left back and set-piece specialist Shaiful Esah is doubtful, struggling with an injury, along with utility man Hafiz Sujad.
With Zulfahmi Arifin also set to lose his midfield place to Hariss, the Lions are likely to start without two of their best set-piece takers.
But Stange remained defiant.
He asked, arms crossed in front of him: "Should I give up because of that? I have to be confident in the team that I choose. If we can't beat Cambodia, we don't deserve to be at the 2019 Asian Cup - we will fail to get there."
"The next game is always the most important game of any competition," he added, philosophically.
"All other thoughts are just overloading the players."
We are not in position now that we are playing amazing football, we even have problems getting our players to perform in the Malaysian league and the Malaysia Cup. You can’t snap your fingers and get top-class performances, we have a long way to go.
— Singapore coach Bernd Stange
LIONS' PROBABLE LINE-UP:
Izwan Mahbud, Nazrul Nazari, Madhu Mohana, Baihakki Khaizan, Shakir Hamzah, Hariss Harun, Izzdin Shafiq, Sahil Suhaimi, Safuwan Baharudin, Faris Ramli, Khairul Amri.