Sundram believes Lions will rise in Suzuki Cup
Sundram believes players will rise to the occasion in Mission Manila
Looking down at his tie, Lions ace Hariss Harun grinned when The New Paper noted how smart the players looked at Changi Airport yesterday, as they prepared to depart for their AFF Suzuki Cup mission in Manila.
Singapore kick off their campaign on Saturday with a clash against co-hosts Philippines.
"Let's hope we look as sharp on the pitch over there," the midfield dynamo, said, only half-joking, as the squad turned up in tailored suits and blue shirts.
"That's where it matters."
Singapore enter the biennial tournament - which they have won a joint-record four times with Thailand - with little fanfare, with many predicting an opening round exit after a poor build-up.
A 1-0 win over Cambodia at the Bishan Stadium three days ago in their final tune-up match provided little cheer, as the Lions laboured for a victory that ended a six-match winless run.
But, having had the last couple of days off to recharge their batteries and spend time with their loved ones, the squad appeared in good spirits yesterday.
Looking relaxed at the check-in counter, national coach V Sundramoorthy backed his boys to come good and finish in the top two in Group A, and qualify for the semi-finals.
Singapore have been drawn alongside Asean's top ranked team Philippines, defending champions and perennial powerhouses Thailand, and Indonesia.
"It's all about us," said Sundram. "Our backs are against the wall and the only way is to bounce back and show we are capable of putting up a good show and getting good results.
"I believe in the boys and I believe they will turn up."
Hariss, who will captain the side, with Shahril Ishak expected to be among the substitutes, echoed the sentiment.
"It's now the business end of things and it's time to step up," said the Johor Darul Ta'zim star.
"We're going there with a goal, which is to try win all our games.
"It's important to get our mentality right and make that our target."
The 25-year-old pointed to how almost 3,000 packed Bishan Stadium last week as a sign the fans still care about the Lions despite their recent slump, and promised they will give everything in Manila.
"It's very heartening to know the fans are there and will back us," said Hariss.
"Nobody is giving us a chance.
"But we're going to go there, do our best, fight and have the right mentality, and if we can do that, we can do something.
"As I've said before, we are not as bad as people think we are."
Wearing a smile, Sundram coolly brushed aside the naysayers.
"It's a game of opinions, and I believe we have a balance of young and older players," he said.
"Let the boys do the talking on the pitch."
- Thailand v Indonesia (4.30pm)
- Singapore v Philippines (8pm)
- Thailand v Singapore (4.30pm)
- Indonesia v Philippines (8pm)
- Singapore v Indonesia (8pm)
- Philippines v Thailand (8pm)
* All Singapore time