Lions need to rediscover scoring touch for Suzuki Cup
There're just 15 days to go before Singapore's AFF Suzuki Cup opener against co-hosts Philippines in Manila, and the alarm bells have sounded.
The goal tap must be switched on now, even in the deserts of Doha.
The Lions have not won any of their last five A international matches, and have scored just three times in six games since V Sundramoorthy took over in June.
The 51-year-old and his team are in Qatar's capital for a five-day training camp, during which they will play two closed-door friendlies against local sides, whose identities the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has declined to reveal.
But there is no doubt what is foremost on the players' minds - goals.
Chief striker Khairul Amri, who can count memorable strikes in three Suzuki Cup finals among his 31 international goals from 108 caps (according to FAS records), told The New Paper: "We want to get our scoring boots back.
"While I hope that everyone stays injury-free as we are about only two weeks away from the Suzuki Cup opener, we also need that aggression and the biggest desire to win every ball, every challenge and, of course, every match.
"At this moment, despite the results, I feel we have got the tactics and team-bonding aspects covered and the boys really want this."
Defender Baihakki Khaizan, who has 127 caps and five goals, added: "I hope we can start to score regularly, and use the upcoming matches to gel more as a team.
"I'm confident our strikers will show up for the big occasions.
National coach V Sundramoorthy
"I can see the mood in training getting more intense and that's a positive sign."
While the goals have not flowed, there are signs that the Lions have become a more cohesive unit under Sundram.
They dominated the goalless draw against Malaysia last month and struck the woodwork three times.
In the following match four days later - a 2-0 defeat by Hong Kong - Singapore also created numerous chances.
In defence, Sundram appears to have settled on his line-up after seeing 10 goals conceded and two clean sheets kept in six games.
Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is a reassuring presence between the sticks, fullbacks Faritz Abdul Hameed and Juma'at Jantan are reliable in the backline and on the overlap, while centre backs Daniel Bennett and Baihakki boast over 250 caps worth of experience.
While the rested midfielder Hariss Harun did not travel with the team, he will surely be among the first names in Singapore's starting XI.
So are utility man Safuwan Baharudin, winger Faris Ramli and Amri ahead of him, which leaves probably just one central midfield role and another one on the wing up for grabs as far as the starting line-up is concerned.
The current 28-man squad will be trimmed to 23 before the Lions leave for Manila on Nov 15.
Sundram said: "We are in the final phase of preparations for the Suzuki Cup and one key objective of this training camp is to allow our coaches and medical staff to assess the conditions of our players after a long season, and take the necessary actions to prepare them to the best of our abilities.
"Our squad comprise players from 11 different clubs, and the ability to stay and train together on a daily basis will enable us to work on and strengthen the players' tactical, physical and mental aspects.
"The idea of staying together, with everyone focused on the same goal, will also strengthen team camaraderie and bonding.
"Team spirit is high and the senior players are constantly speaking to their younger teammates.
"We have a good mix of experienced players such as Shahril (Ishak), Daniel and Hassan and younger players like Iqbal (Hamid Hussain) and Anumanthan (Mohan Kumar) and I'm happy that they have the desire to not just be in the final 23-man squad but also to be in the starting line-up.
"Some players have played consistently well over the last few months and they should be in the final squad unless they pick up an injury over the next two weeks.
"The others are competing well for the remaining spots in the 23-man squad and hence, the upcoming matches will be a key opportunity for them to select themselves for the competition."
After returning home on Sunday, the Lions will play international friendlies against Syria in Negeri Sembilan next Wednesday, and against Cambodia at Bishan Stadium on Nov 13 before they depart for Manila.