Fandi and Sundram return as Stange's assistants
Former Singapore stars will continue as assistant coaches for Lions' clash with Syria
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin called them the "best local coaches in Singapore after their recent achievements", and both Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy have been recalled to Bernd Stange's backroom as the national team resume their World Cup qualifying campaign against Syria on Sept 3 in Muscat.
The Lions are top of the five-team Group E on four points, an unlikely but positive position in the second round of qualifiers that also serves as a route into the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
Fandi and Sundram received plaudits for the roles they played alongside Stange in June's 4-0 win over Cambodia, as well as the sensational 0-0 draw with Asian powerhouses Japan in Saitama, and the two former international stars return to the fold as the Lions look to extend their unlikely stay at the top of the standings.
Afghanistan are the other team in the group.
"Both coaches will continue to support national coach Stange for the upcoming qualifying match against Syria. We believe they will continue to add value to the team and we hope to build on the positive results in our opening two matches as we strive to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup," said an FAS spokesman.
"At the same time, their involvement in the upcoming qualifier will also provide invaluable international exposure for Fandi and Sundram."
International exposure for the duo could well be critical for Singapore football, as the Lions prepare for four home games in the qualifiers before the end of the year.
The New Paper understands that the FAS have yet to open contract extension talks with Stange and, with the 66-year-old's term coming to an end on Sept 30, Fandi and Sundram are prime candidates to take charge of the remainder of the Lions' campaign, if the German's stewardship comes to an end next month.
Fandi is currently coach of the LionXII in Malaysia's domestic club competitions, while Sundram is leading S.League giants Tampines Rovers.
While the FAS remains tight-lipped on Stange's situation, Singapore captain Shahril Ishak believes the right men are already in place.
"Both of them (Fandi and Sundram) were very involved in our last two games, assisting (Stange), and we appreciated the work they put in - we looked forward to training sessions," said the Johor Darul Ta'zim II captain.
"As a player, it was good to see two local coaches get involved and, while both of them have different approaches to the game, they showed that they could blend very well together, and also with the head coach."
Stange has yet to name his squad for the tune-up against Qatar on Aug 28 and the crucial Syria game that follows, but Shahril cannot wait to get back into a World Cup qualifying campaign that he believes holds much promise.
"After that 0-0 draw with Japan, we started to believe that we can achieve something special. Japan will likely win the group, but we now have a good opportunity to finish second and qualify," said Shahril.
Second place will ensure that the Lions move into the third round of the World Cup qualifiers, with the top four second-placed sides from the eight groups also securing a place in the Finals of next year's Asian Cup.
Singapore have never qualified for the Asian Cup, having played only once in the Finals when the competition was hosted in the Lion City in 1984.
"I spoke with Fandi and Sundram, and it's clear that this game against Syria is very important for us," said Shahril.
"If we get a positive result, we put ourselves in a very good position.
"If we don't get complacent and make sure we get maximum points at home against Cambodia and Afghanistan, we can pull this off - and it will be great for Singapore football."
"I did the AFC Professional Diploma course with the both of them, and they were not just legends as players, but also good coaches who are tactically smart. Having them in the national set-up will inspire players, and is great for Singapore football."
- B Sathianathan, former Malaysia national coach, on Fandi and Sundram assisting Bernd Stange with the Lionsa