Sundram to play Suzuki Cup first 11 against Hong Kong
Sundram to play first-choice line-up for friendly
There are less than three weeks to go before V Sundramoorthy's Lions welcome Malaysia to the National Stadium in the Causeway Challenge on Oct 7, and the time for experimentation is over.
Sundram has lined up fixtures against Hong Kong (Oct 11) and two other teams during a 10-day training camp in Qatar (Nov 1-10), ahead of the AFF Suzuki Cup's kick-off on Nov 19.
In those games, Singapore will get a preview of the Lions who will look to redeem themselves at the year-end tournament.
Singapore went into the last edition in 2014 as defending champions, but were booted out in the group stages in front of a home crowd.
Sundram may have spent only four months as national coach since his May 27 appointment, but he has been tasked to qualify for the semi-finals from a tough Group A that features defending champions Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.
"The Suzuki Cup is more important than these next few games, but these games are important in the sense that they are key in the run-up to the Suzuki Cup," Sundram told The New Paper at the sidelines of the Singapore Sports Hub's Community Play Day, which he and a quartet of Lions graced.
"We will see the team likely to play at the tournament, because we have to test those players.
"I have more or less the final team in mind, but the door is not closed on other players. There may be still be surprises."
Since his appointment, Sundram has opened the door to veterans like Daniel Bennett, whom he asserts has done well, especially in the Lions' last test against Bahrain.
They lost 3-1 away to the Middle Eastern side, but the 38-year-old Bennett put in one of the better performances on the night.
Singapore conceded three penalties in the game, and all were converted.
"The last game against Bahrain was pleasing. The boys are starting to understand what I want, and are starting to play well." said Sundram, who revealed that the door remains open to older players like 35-year-old Mustafic Fahrudin - who was overlooked by former Lions' coach Bernd Stange.
"In this Suzuki Cup, it is important that we have a balance of experience and youth."
And that balance will come to the fore at the Causeway Challenge, where 155th-ranked Singapore will take on their old rivals, who are just three rungs below them in the Fifa rankings.
Malaysia have lost a slew of senior players - captain Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, S Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi - to what seems to be early retirement, but Sundram does not believe that will make the encounter a walk in the park.
"Malaysia have got a large base of players… I think this team will see newer players, to give them exposure for the Suzuki Cup. But, even so, I don't think it will be an easy match at all," said Sundram.
"The game after Malaysia, against Hong Kong, is for me the most important one.
"That's where we will put in the team we want to use (for the Suzuki Cup)."
After returning from Qatar on Nov 10, the Lions will depart for Manila five days later, with their first group fixture against the Philippines on Nov 19.