Lions need positive results before draw for Asian Cup qualifiers
Lions need positive results while they wait for draw for final round of Asian Cup qualifiers
With a poor world ranking of 148, the national football team will be made to sweat as they wait for the draw of the third and final round of qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals.
Twelve teams - the eight group winners and the four best runners-up from the 2018 World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers - have already claimed their spots in the 24-team Asian Cup Finals, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
There will be 24 teams battling in the final round of qualifiers to fill up the remaining 12 slots and 16, including Singapore, are already in the hat.
The remaining eight will come from 11 teams doing battle in two home-and-away play-off rounds on June 2 and 7, and Sept 6 and Oct 11. This draw will be made next Thursday.
Once confirmed, the 24 teams will be divided into six groups of four to play home-and-away round-robin matches from March 28, 2017 to March 27, 2018.
The Lions will aim to finish as one of the top two teams in their group if they want to qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time; they played in the 1984 edition as hosts and narrowly missed out on making it to the 1996 and 2011 editions after failing to get the result they needed in their final qualifying match.
Said Singapore skipper Shahril Ishak: "Like every team, we hope for a good draw for the final round of Asian Cup qualifiers.
"We know it's not going to be easy with many teams from the Middle East still in the mix but we believe that on our day, we can be a match for any team in these qualifiers.
"We have to win our upcoming friendlies to improve our ranking and put ourselves in the best possible position for the draw.
"I believe that if we unite and work hard together, we have a realistic chance to finish second in our group and qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time."
Based on their world ranking, the Lions are in danger of being classified among the third seeds and hence could be handed a draw with stronger teams than if they were in the second pot.
Right now, Singapore are 13th out of the 16 teams that have made it to the final round of Asian Cup qualifiers, which puts them in the third pot.
If the draw is held now, the worst-case scenario for Singapore would appear to be a group of death with Jordan, Bahrain and Tajikistan, given their poor record against teams from the Middle East.
However, the draw for the final round of qualifiers should be held after the play-off rounds conclude on Oct 11, which will give the Lions three Fifa windows in June, September and October to play 'A' internationals and move up the rankings.
They could squeeze into the second pot and could garner a kinder draw, pitting them against the likes of North Korea, Myanmar and Laos, for example.
After the 2-1 friendly win over Myanmar at the Jalan Besar Stadium last week, outgoing Singapore coach Bernd Stange confirmed that the Lions will play in a friendly quadrangular which will feature Hong Kong, Vietnam and hosts Myanmar in the first week of June.
A good performance in the tournament will help the team climb up the world rankings and improve hopes of a favourable draw.
THROUGH TO THE 2019 ASIAN CUP FINALS (Fifa rankings as of this month)
- United Arab Emirates (world No. 64, hosts)
- Iran (44)
- Japan (56)
- South Korea (57)
- Saudi Arabia (60)
- Australia (67)
- Uzbekistan (74)
- Qatar (80)
- Iraq (91)
- China (96)
- Thailand (118)
- Syria (123)
THROUGH TO FINAL ROUND OF ASIAN CUP QUALIFIERS
- Jordan (82)
- North Korea (94)
- Oman (97)
- Kyrgyzstan (105)
- Turkmenistan (113)
- Palestine (117)
- Bahrain (132)
- Kuwait (133)
- Philippines (135)
- Hong Kong (139)
- Lebanon (145)
- Vietnam (146)
- Singapore (148)
- Afghanistan (151)
- Myanmar (154)
- Guam (154)
THROUGH TO ASIAN CUP QUALIFIER PLAY-OFFS
- Tajikistan (150)
- Maldives (158)
- India (160)
- Malaysia (166)
- Timor Leste (170)
- Yemen (175)
- Bangladesh (177)
- Laos (178)
- Taiwan (181)
- Cambodia (183)
- Bhutan (193)