Stange wants to stay on to finish World Cup job
German coach confirms for the first time his desire to try and make history with Lions
WORLD CUP QUALIFIER (ASIA, GROUP E)
SYRIA v SINGAPORE
REPORTING FROM MUSCAT
Singapore national coach Bernd Stange has ended his silence on rumours swirling around his future.
The German's contract with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is over at the end of this month but, following a fantastic result holding Japan in Saitama in June, the veteran coach says he wants to finish the job.
Ahead of Singapore's crucial World Cup Group E qualifier against Syria here in Muscat tomorrow, Stange told The New Paper at the team's base at the Crowne Plaza Hotel that he would like to be given the opportunity to extend his stay until the end of the Lions' qualifying campaign next March.
But he stressed he would not lose any sleep if he wasn't offered an extension.
Said the 67-year-old: "Just to give you, as the first journalist, a direction about myself...
"I would like to complete my job, which is an unbelievably hard one, to bring the team to the AFC Asian Cup Finals.
"But I'm independent enough to accept any decision by the FAS.
"For me, it's not a problem. I am focused on the next match."
Stange's Lions lead Group E after two fine results away from home - a 4-0 win over Cambodia followed by a 0-0 against Japan - and even a draw against Syria will set them up nicely for four successive home games after that.
The eight group winners and four best runners-up of the second round of the 2018 World Cup Asian qualifiers will advance to the third round, and also qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals, a feat Singapore have never managed except when they hosted the tournament in 1984.
While Syria are fancied to take second place in the group behind Japan, the Lions are hoping for at least a point tomorrow to keep their dream very much alive.
The Straits Times reported last week that the FAS could extend Stange's contract by six months if Singapore avoid a heavy defeat by Syria, and the German said he was upset the matter of his contract was brought up in public.
He said he was also not happy at the report suggesting local legends Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy, who are his assistants in Oman, were eyeing his job.
"I would like to say this: There's a fantastic spirit among the coaching team, that's based on respect," he said.
"I'm disappointed this case comes up in the public. I'm not very happy about that."
Shaiful the set-piece weapon against Syria
One area the Lions seem well-stocked in is set-piece specialists.
National coach Bernd Stange can take his pick from fullback Shaiful Esah and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin, who are both armed with a superb left foot.
Alternatively, the German can also count on similarly high-quality deliveries from playmaker Shahdan Sulaiman's right boot.
It could be crucial, especially with the likes of Safuwan Baharudin and Baihakki Khaizan both well capable of getting on the end of free-kicks and corners.
However, the German will likely only turn to Shaiful for the team's crucial World Cup Group E qualifying match against Syria in Muscat, Oman, tomorrow.
Don't fix what ain't broke.
Stange told The New Paper ahead of yesterday's training session: "There are not so many arguments to change the successful team that played against Cambodia and Japan.
"We should continue with the stability.
"That's why you can expect the team that played in Japan, plus Safuwan (he was unavailable for the Saitama clash because of personal reasons) in our team.
"There won't be so many changes. There is no reason."
That means Shaiful, who played the whole 90 minutes of the stunning 0-0 in Saitama against Japan, being the sole dead-ball expert in the starting 11.
The Lions lead the group on four points are are looking for a positive result tomorrow.
Zulfahmi is set to lose his place in the starting 11 to Safuwan, while LionsXII teammate Shahdan is still working his way back to top form, following a horrific leg break last November which sidelined him for over six months.
"It's an important part of our game, and we have the specialists, but this game will be more than just about set-pieces," said Stange.
Shaiful, a stalwart who has 49 caps to his name, said the players are going all out to secure a positive result here.
"Playing in the Middle East is always tough, but we know if we lose here, all the effort and hard work we put in against Japan would be wasted," said the Tampines Rovers fullback.
"Set-pieces count for half of our goals, so we have to concentrate at both attacking and defending them.
"As for me, I'll just do what I do all the time and try to give the best delivery at every dead ball I can."