Fans, critics call for S'pore coach resignation after Suzuki Cup loss
The tears have dried and the red jerseys and scarves have been returned to the wardrobe, but the disappointment of being beaten in their own backyard still stings.
Singaporeans are overcome with a gamut of emotions from anger to sheer devastation that the Lions, defending champions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, were booted out of the group stages after defeats against Thailand last week and Malaysia on Saturday.
And the knives are out.
Focusing on everything from team selection to tactics and style, national football coach Bernd Stange's critics are out in force, with some even calling for his head.
"When he was appointed, Stange spoke about possession-based football with a lot of pressing, but patience is wearing thin among fans," said Jason Wu, 32, who is self-employed.
"We have seen none of that. If Stange doesn't produce results soon enough, I sincerely believe that his contract should not be renewed when it expires next year."
Pointing to the German's insistence on leaving out players like Hafiz Rahim, Mustafic Fahrudin and Firdaus Idros, who enjoyed good seasons with their respective S.League clubs, Mr Deepanraj Ganesan also bemoaned the fact that Stange's Lions took 82 minutes to register their first shot on target in the 3-1 loss to Malaysia on Saturday.
"Even after our exit, he is still adamant that his methods are for the good of Singapore football," said the 20-year-old student.
"I don't buy his excuses. It's time for him to go, because he just hasn't walked the talk."
Former youth coach, national coach, and Football Association of Singapore director of coaching Seak Poh Leong believes that Stange should put his hands up, at least for two tactical decisions at critical moments that hurt the Lions.
The first was dropping the effective Hariss Harun from midfield into central defence in the second half of the 2-1 defeat to Thailand.
The second was stifling the attacking instincts of Shahril Ishak in the loss against Malaysia by deploying him in central midfield, instead of further upfield.
"We were not inferior to Thailand or Malaysia, and I thought we deserved to go through (to the semi-finals). But these were the second best decisions that, in my opinion, turned a one-problem situation into a two-problem situation," said the former Singapore captain.
"I'm not saying he should be sacked, but (Stange) has to take responsibility for these decisions...and the results."
Former Singapore international Rafi Ali believes the Lions' showing is just the tip of the iceberg of problems facing local football.
He believes that current young players do not have a grasp of the essential basics, in terms of technique and game-intelligence.
While a coach should take the blame for his decisions, sacking Stange will not get to the root of what Rafi insists is the problem.
"There's no point talking about tactics and style if we can't even do the simple things.
"Our youth development system is a total shambles, and has a culture of players who want to look good, not play good.
"There's a feeling that anyone can pull on a national team jersey."
Seak and Rafi are united in their belief that Singapore is on a slippery slope, in danger of tumbling far down the regional pecking order.
"(If we do not get to the root of the problem), let's not dream that we can easily repeat what we've done in the past, and make it into the third round of the Fifa World Cup qualifiers (that kick off next year)," said Seak.
Rafi is not even looking that high.
"We're already losing ground on teams like Thailand, Vietnam, even Cambodia and Laos.
"And unless we can find a way to effectively replace our older players, in the long run, we're not going to go anywhere with our football."
We were not inferior to Thailand or Malaysia, and I thought we deserved to go through.
- Former national coach Seak Poh Leong