Stange confident of victory
SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA
(Tonight, 7.55pm, MediaCorp okto, SingTel mio TV Ch 114 & StarHub TV Ch 208)
Ahead of a titanic clash such as the Causeway Derby, talk is cheap.
So, even though yesterday's pre-match press conference was conducted jointly and featured both Lions trainer Bernd Stange and Malaysia coach Dollah Salleh, it lasted about only 10 minutes.
Truth is, there wasn't much to say.
The equation for both teams, ahead of tonight's crunch AFF Suzuki Cup Group B tie at the National Stadium, was clear.
Nothing less than a win will do for Malaysia if they hope to make the semi-final, while a draw for Singapore could still see the Lions knocked out if Myanmar rack up an improbable high-scoring win over group winners Thailand.
Sure, Stange had to field questions about his missing pair of Baihakki Khaizan (suspension) and Shahdan Sulaiman (broken leg).
"We still have 20 players available for tomorrow's match," said the German.
"Today is our last training session and, after that, we will find a solution, we can trust our team.
"Ok, it's a miss and it's not easy to replace experienced players. But we are well prepared and we know what we have to do."
He added that, while a point could be enough to secure progress to the semi-final, the Lions "shouldn't be arrogant" and expect group winners Thailand not to lose to Myanmar.
Dollah, meanwhile, was all smiles as he spoke about how it felt to lead his Tigers against a country he had spent his childhood in and still maintains close ties with to this day.
It's "more difficult" as a coach than as a player, the former Malaysian striker said, pointing to the extra responsibility of assessing his opponent.
Not exactly the most mind-blowing stuff. But, this was not the usual cat-and-mouse game at press conferences.
The two sides know each other so well that there isn't much to hide anyway.
Both teams know that the only thing that matters is what they do on the pitch tonight.
Said Stange: "We know all their players, my coaches Aide Iskandar and Fandi Ahmad give me all the details.
"And, on the other side, my colleague knows everything about the Singapore team.
"It's not necessary to tell them that Safuwan is a good header; they know that already. So there's nothing confidential."
Dollah sang from the same songsheet when The New Paper spoke to him after a training session on Thursday.
When asked whether he would try to exploit the holes created by Baihakki's and Shahdan's absence, he said: "I'm not bothered. It's all the same.
"We all know about the rivalry between Malaysia and Singapore. It's like an "abang adik" (elder brother, younger brother in Malay) game.
"Both teams know each other inside out.
"If Hariss replaces Bai, we know all about him. If Shakir Hamzah comes in instead, my players have also played against him when he played for the LionsXII.
"Whatever it is, we won't underestimate Singapore. We have to score, we have to win. That's our mission and we will go all out to achieve that."
Stange is bracing himself for a Malaysian backlash.
"It's a big clash tomorrow, and all I have is respect for this Malaysian team," he said. "They are a wounded animal, after the results for the preparation for this tournament and in it.
"And that's why they are extremely dangerous for us, and we have to be prepared for that."
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