Sundram: We can upset the odds
Lions coach hopeful rested players can deliver win against Turkmenistan in crucial qualifier
There is fresh optimism in the Singapore camp ahead of tomorrow's Asian Cup Group E qualifier against Turkmenistan.
It emanated from the encouraging display by the Lions in a 1-1 home draw against the same opponents last month.
After arriving in Ashgabat on Saturday, Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy has put his charges through a recovery programme which he hopes will result in fresh legs.
With almost no margin left for error, the assignment is as clear-cut as it gets - beat Turkmenistan to put their qualification hopes back on track.
Said Sundram in a phone interview: "Recovery is very important. We can talk about fitness and tactics but, at this point, freshness is key.
"And to that end, we headed to Ashgabat earlier - three days before the game - not like what Turkmenistan did when they came to Singapore."
Last month, Turkmenistan arrived in Singapore 48 hours before the match and held only one training session on Jalan Besar's artificial surface.
To prepare for tomorrow's clash, Singapore also played a friendly against Qatar, losing 3-1 last Friday.
Following that, they had to endure a seven-hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey, as they made their journey from Doha to Ashgabat.
"The boys have had a long journey, so the roles of our sports trainers, physios and fitness coach are important," said Sundram, who celebrated his 52nd birthday with the team at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.
"The Turkmenistan game will be a totally different one from the one at Jalan Besar.
"This time, they will have their home fans, who will be a hostile crowd for us, and they are a well-rested team looking to boost their own qualification chances."
Singapore, with two points in three games, are bottom of Group E, but they will leapfrog second-placed Turkmenistan if they win in Ashgabat. Including tomorrow's match, they have three games left.
Sundram is buoyed by what he saw in the 3-1 defeat by Qatar.
He said: "Qatar have more quality than Turkmenistan and I already have an idea of how to approach the next match.
"Against Qatar, we had to stay really compact but, in the Turkmenistan game, there will more possibilities for us to break and do damage.
"We held a quality opponent like Qatar for 39 minutes and, even when they scored, it was due to our lack of concentration, not because they created those chances."
In that match, Singapore conceded twice from defensive lapses, before Faris Ramli pulled a goal back with a well-struck volley. The Lions almost equalised, but Fazrul Nawaz's goal was disallowed for offside, before Qatar wrapped the game up with another goal.
Singapore will take on Turkmenistan without first-choice wing backs - Shakir Hamzah (hip injury) and Nazrul Nazari (family commitment), but Sundram drew positives from the performances of replacements Hafiz Sujad and Faritz Hameed, who shone against Qatar.
"They ran their socks off and got themselves in good defensive positions but, against Turkmenistan, we will need them to push forward more," said Sundram, calling for more attacking verve.
"I know that many people are not giving us a chance in this game, but I believe we can upset the odds."