Lions have semi-finals in mind
Drawn in Suzuki Cup 'group of death', Lions aim to play in front of their own fans
Bring the Suzuki Cup action back to Singapore - that's the challenge national football coach V Sundramoorthy has set for the Lions ahead of the big kick-off on Nov 19.
That means he wants to see his men finish in the top two in a daunting Group A, which would mean qualification for the semi-finals of Asean's most prestigious football tournament.
The semi-finals of the competition will be played on a home-and-away basis (Group B features hosts Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia)..
The Lions have slipped to an all-time low of 171 in the Fifa rankings and will go up against group hosts Philippines (world No. 124), regional kingpins Thailand (146) and a resurgent Indonesia (179), but Sundram insists he does not feel any pressure.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday on the sidelines of a training session, he said: "The team spirit is very good, and the boys are motivated. I can tell they really want to achieve something, that they want to be part of the team and be part of a successful team.
"Anything is possible in football and we want to move forward.
"Definitely, we want to bring the Suzuki Cup competition to Singapore for our fans.
"To do that, we will give of our best to get out of the group. But it is also important to take it one game at a time and build a winning mentality.
"There's no doubt that this is a tough group but we are determined to do our best. In football, there are always important factors which are beyond our control such as decisions by the match officials and the support for the home team etc...
"But as long as we stick to our game-plan and remain focused and calm, I believe we have as good a chance as the other three teams.
"We are also working on scoring more goals. It takes time and hopefully it will all come together and we can peak at the Suzuki Cup."
To that end, the recent five-day training stint in Qatar was useful, as the Lions played two local sides, winning the first 4-2 before losing the second 1-0, with Shahfiq Ghani netting twice and Shahril Ishak and Gabriel Quak also getting on the scoresheet.
The unofficial friendly win snapped a run of five A internationals without a victory.
"We have players from 11 different clubs and our time in Qatar allowed us to work on tactics while the team bonded," said Sundram, who will welcome key midfielder Hariss Harun back after he was rested for the trip.
Today, the 28-strong Lions squad will travel to Paroi, Negeri Sembilan, where they will take on world No. 96 Syria tomorrow.
They will then play Cambodia at Bishan Stadium on Sunday before flying off to Manila on Tuesday evening.
Sundram believes the Syrians will provide a similar test to what they will face against the Philippines in their opening match on Nov 19.
"Syria are as good, if not better than the Philippines," said the 51-year-old.
"They are in the final round of the World Cup qualifiers, beat China 1-0 and held South Korea to a 0-0 draw in the last two months. It will be a good test for us in terms of physicality and intensity, and the players will need to be up and about.
"After that, Cambodia will serve as a final run-out for us before the Suzuki Cup starts, but as everyone knows, there are no more easy games.
"I have more or less decided on the final 23, pending any last-minute injuries.
"The squad will be confirmed after we play Cambodia on Sunday."