Stange drafts U-23 drop-out into senior squad to boost his experience
Decision to include U-23 drop-out is to give him experience
SINGAPORE v BRUNEI
(Today, 5pm, Jurong East Stadium)
When national football coach Bernd Stange recalled striker Iqbal Hussain into the senior squad, his decision perplexed many.
Just days earlier, Iqbal had been omitted from Aide Iskandar's Under-23 South-east Asia (SEA) Games side.
It raised the point: How can he be good enough for the national team when he can't make the cut for the U-23s?
Others went as far as to suggest that Stange had undermined Aide's authority.
After all, it is believed Aide had raised his reservations about 21-year-old Iqbal in a earlier discussion with Stange.
But at a press conference ahead of today's international friendly against Brunei, Stange took the opportunity to clear the air.
"Iqbal will not play. He is not in the match-day squad," said the 67-year-old.
"The reason behind including him was just to give him some experience working with the senior players.
"I think he is a good player, a talented player. He has the potential. I have no doubts about that.
"He is part of the team, but he is learning with the team first. Because in every team, it is important to have balance. We have players over 30, and players like Iqbal who are on the right side of their twenties."
Today's match at the Jurong East Stadium will pit Stange's men against a largely second-string Brunei side lacking the services of players from Brunei DPMM, their leading club.
This is because the club refused to release their players as the tie does not fall under world governing body Fifa's designated dates for international friendlies. The next official friendly dates are from Monday to June 16, according to Fifa's website.
But even then, Stange has promised to field his strongest 11, just like he did against Bangladesh a week ago. Singapore have 2018 World Cup qualifiers away to Cambodia and Japan on June 11 and 16 respectively.
He said: "We should not take any team for granted. The time for testing out players and working out tactics is over. We had a very hard game against Bangladesh, against whom we dug deep to eventually win 2-1 in difficult conditions.
"This time we want to build confidence and get a positive result through a positive performance so that we will be in the best shape possible when we start our World Cup qualifiers."
Midfielder Hariss Harun agreed.
"It's our final tune-up before the crucial World Cup qualifiers, so we'll be looking to perform at our best," said the 24-year-old.
"A win against Brunei will be just what we need."
The match, though, will also be a chance for Stange to spread some cheer to Singapore football fans after Aide's U-23 team endured a disappointing 2-1 loss to Myanmar in their SEA Games clash on Thursday.
"We need a result to show how strong we are, and build from our win and make it two in a row," said Stange yesterday.
"We are united, and we have what it takes. We are focused, especially in a time when the senior side have to take a back seat to the U-23s.
"They did well yesterday, but were unlucky to lose. So now it's our turn to get a win for Singapore."
"Iqbal will not play. He is not in the match-day squad. He is part of the team, but he is learning with the team first."
— Bernd Stange on Iqbal Hussain