Tardy calls for maximum effort from U-22 boys
Coach wants charges to prove their worth in AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualifiers and Perth training trip before SEA Games
The time has come to show what you are made of.
The SEA Games may be a month away, but national Under-22 coach Richard Tardy is demanding that his charges get into tournament mode for the biennial Games, as the squad prepare to fly off to Myanmar on Monday.
The U-22s will compete in the AFC Under-23 Asian Cup qualifiers next week, where they play Group F hosts Myanmar (Wednesday), Australia (Friday) and Brunei (Sunday).
Myanmar and Brunei are also in Singapore's group for the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next month, along with Malaysia and Laos.
The SEA Games football tournament, which is an Under-22 affair, kicks off on Aug 15.
Following next week's qualifying matches, Tardy's squad will fly off to Perth for a training camp from Aug 2-9, when they will play two matches - against a Western Australia Selection side and the Australia Under-20 team - as part of their final tune-up before the SEA Games.
On the sidelines of a press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, the French coach told The New Paper: "By the time we are in Perth, I want us to have the (mentality) we need at the SEA Games.
"I will insist from the players that that will be their last chance to show me their spirit and quality.
"In fact, the tournament in Myanmar will also be a strong test.
"And, in this kind of tournament, you cannot lie (down and relax) or be lazy... You must show your best."
Singapore have failed to qualify for the Finals of the two previous editions of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup, which will be held in China next year.
The Republic have also never won the gold medal in 29 editions of the SEA Games, with their best effort being three silver medals in 1983, 1985 and 1989.
At the last SEA Games on home soil two years ago, Singapore flopped and were knocked out at the group stage.
Tardy said playing a high-quality tournament just before the SEA Games can whip his boys into shape for the SEA Games assignment.
"For me, (the scheduling of the tournaments) may be good, because after the qualifiers, we must immediately think about the SEA Games, and react," he added.
"If we have a three- or four- month break, the players may switch off.
"And these players, we must keep them under pressure... every time."
Attacking midfielder Hanafi Akbar said that he and his teammates are fired up to prove a point in KL next month.
The talented 22-year-old, who returned to professional football this year after three years, having spent a year in prison for drug offences, said: "I feel blessed and very thankful for the opportunities coach (Tardy) has given me.
"Honestly, when I look at our team, I believe we are in good shape and we have the right spirit.
"And, in our last game against India (a 1-0 win on Wednesday), I think we showed everything (for us to do well).
"As for the SEA Games, this is the final chance for some of us to show what we can do, so we will do our best and we believe we can go far."